Point and Sandwick Trust has welcomed two new members on to its board — Point postie Gordon Mackay and community wind farm campaigner Rhoda Mackenzie.

Sonja Macleod has also returned to the board after a six-month absence.

Rhoda, Gordon and Sonja joined the board at November’s AGM and have shared some thoughts, here, about being involved with the community wind farm.

The other board members are Angus McCormack (chair), Duncan Mackay (vice chair), Elizabeth Chaplin, Matt Bruce, Kenny Dan Macdonald, Ed Macgregor, Agnes Munro, Alison Carty, Andrew Mackenzie and Norman Mackenzie. Donald John MacSween is the general manager.

Point and Sandwick Trust is the charity behind Point and Sandwick Power, the company which runs the three-turbine wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag, on the Pentland Road. These community-owned turbines make about £900,000 a year and all the profits go back to the community.

Knock resident Gordon Mackay has a postie round that takes him from North Street to Portnaguran. He attended his first board meeting in February and admits he was surprised to learn just how many projects benefited from grants from PST.

He was invited to join the board. “I thought, ‘I have to be part of these things and get involved because it’s all for the community’. It’s really great, what’s happening. They are funding a lot of things. Bethesda is getting yearly money — I didn’t know any of this — and they’re doing work in community kitchens and at the pier.”
Gordon, who is married with two daughters, said he was looking forward to “getting involved”, adding: “I’m amongst people too, so I can listen to what people are saying and I can suggest things to them, like how to approach for funding. I hope I can get more hands-on.”

The Beinn Ghrideag turbines are located on North Street’s common grazings, so North Street resident Rhoda Mackenzie already knew all about community ownership and renewables before she joined the board.

Separately, Rhoda is also involved in the battle to secure more community turbines for North Street — alongside Sandwick East Street, Melbost & Branahuie and Aignish — with their Section 50b application for development rights to the Crofting Commission.

Rhoda said: “I work full time, I look after grandchildren when I’m not working and now I’m up to my neck in renewable energy protests. What do I do in my spare time? What is spare time?!”

Rhoda is a supervisor for the Faire Community Alarm Service and, although a Lochie originally, has been a North Street resident since 1980. Her father, however, was a Rudhach.

She told how North Street has benefited from land rental payments for the Beinn Ghrideag turbines and been able to bring forward capital projects, including new fencing, a steel building and a fank. She said it had also boosted North Street’s “sense of community” and brought a lot of young people into the grazings committee.

Like Gordon, she was asked to join the board, having been “very involved in the renewables scheme to build the original turbines on our ground”. And she too now has a broader view of how the PST money is spent.

“I knew about the big donations because they were headlines but it’s all the wee ones as well. Point and Sandwick is actually spreading money right across the divide. It’s tackling issues that the council no longer has money to tackle, like social isolation and future unemployment.

“It’s doing the arts, hospices, innovation… but also all the small social things and these thousands of pounds to old folks groups are equally as important as £20,000 to An Lanntair because it gets them out of the house and speaking to people.

Sonja Macleod is also back on the board after taking a break for personal reasons. Sonja works full time for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland as a rehabilitation support coordinator and lives in Portvoller, with her family.

She originally joined the board in 2015. “I enjoyed being part of the Point and Sandwick Trust directors. They’re a good bunch of people to work with and it’s also doing your bit for the community and supporting the community for grants. When I’d been reading in the press about what they had been doing, I kind of missed it. And also Donald John told me I had to…!”

Sonja is also on the board of Point and Sandwick Power, as well as the Trust, so is getting a good overview of the logistics of the turbines as well as the work of the charity.
For her, innovation is important and she would like to see “more radical” developments in the future.

She also believes political leaders “need to have a rethink” about favouring multinational developments as community-owned ones are “a far better option”.

She said: “I don’t think they’re getting the full picture of it. Small communities should be looking at the model created by Horshader and Point and Sandwick and following that. Lots and lots of corporate organisations have an ownership of land up here and I think it’s a really bad idea. To keep it within the community protects it.”

Top photograph - Point and Sandwick Trust Board members and staff, photographed by Alasdair Nicholson.