The increasingly bitter crisis over who owns the island of Great Bernera will be outlined in the Scottish Parliament today ((Tuesday 14 June).
SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, will lead a Member’s Debate to highlight the community in Great Bernera’s ongoing difficulties with their landlord.
MSPs will hear that "despite concentrated efforts on the Trust’s part to bring the crofting land’s sale to completion, a reported lack of cooperation by the island’s absentee landlord has delayed and halted necessary progress."
The motion draws attention to "recent demands for significant payments by the landlord from local crofters before he will give permission for various legitimate, and elsewhere payment-free, transactions to proceed."
Allan will discuss the importance of communities being able to make decisions over the best ways to develop their local area, as well as the progress so far of Bernera’s community buyout efforts.
MSPs will be invited to make their contributions in response to the motion lodged by Allan which also recognises the work of the Great Bernera Community Development Trust so far in their pursuit of a crofting community buyout and notes the reported ongoing difficulties between local residents and the island’s absentee landlord.
Bernera has been owned by the grandson of Count Robin de La Lanne-Mirlees since 'the Comte's' death in 2012. In 2015, 85% of Bernera’s residents voted in favour of a community buyout. However, delays and drawn-out negotiations over the island’s sale price and conditions of sale have meant that progressing the buyout has been very difficult for the Community Trust, despite their best efforts.
A representative from the Great Bernera Community Development Trust said: “The community buyout has been a long, ongoing process, fraught with difficulties; both in terms of the situation with the landowner and with complex nature of the legislation that accompanies a Part 3 ‘Forced Buy-Out’.
“As a community we are trying to move ahead to provide income streams and housing that are essential if our fragile community is to thrive now and into the future. We are therefore seeking government help to meet some of the eligibility criteria required for a Part 3 buyout
"We believe that without making use of this legislation, this situation will remain and we will continue to see population decline and the loss of further services that this has brought.”
Commenting ahead of today’s debate, Allan said: “The motion I have tabled draws attention to how residents in Bernera are facing real difficulties at present in completing legitimate transactions and in facilitating local development. Unless something changes soon, Bernera’s population will continue to decline, due to the lack of scope for local development under the current owner.
“I will continue to do all I can to assist the Great Bernera Community Development Trust with their sustained efforts to bring the island legally into the ownership of local people.