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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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Galson Estate Map
News came through that funding has been secured which would allow the residents on the Galson Estate (North Lewis) to buy the estate for themselves. A total of more than £600,000 has come through from the Scottish Land Fund, set up to help community buy-outs as well as from Highlands & Islands Enterprise. This was made possible as a result of a strong business plan being set up for Galson.

Although Galson is not for sale, it is possible for the community to mount a hostile take-over under legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament since devolution in 1999. The other estate in Lewis which is going through the same process is Pairc in South Lochs, the area between Loch Erisort and Loch Shell / Loch Seaforth.

Garyvard (South Lochs)
The take-over there is economically based on the establishment of a community windfarm on the adjacent Eishken estate. Owner Nick Oppenheimer has decided to reduce the number of turbines on the whole project in his estate from 133 to 53, for the reasons that I outlined in a post on Windfarms a few days ago. It does mean that the Pairc Estate stands to lose millions of pounds, and the viability of the buy-out plan would appear to be reduced.

I am not privy to the Galson Estate businessplan, but I would imagine that its fortunes are based on the other windfarm planned for Lewis, which involves 234 turbines from Ness to Stornoway. Both the Eishken and North Lewis windfarms are going through the Scottish Executive later on this spring, and in my opinion the buy-outs are to a large extent dependant on its success.

I have made my opposition to both windfarms clear, even bearing in mind the economic benefits that they are supposed to bring. My cynicism on these benefits has been borne out in previous posts.

The islanders of Lewis had a golden opportunity to manage their land for themselves in the 1920s. When Lord Leverhulme decided to sell up, he offered the people of the island the land as a gift. Apart from the parish of Stornoway, this was turned down. Now, 85 years later, the wheel has come full circle, in that the islanders are taking what was theirs for the accepting in the 1920s.

I am strongly in favour of community buy-outs, having supported the Eigg buy-out in 1996/1997. One of the reasons for my interest in the Western Isles is that I do NOT understand how a region can be held back by the malice, ineptitude and / or greed of just a few people who in some instances don't even live locally. The changes that have been effected in Eigg since 1997 are astonishing. In spite of my misgivings about windfarms, I hope the same will happen in Galson and Pairc. Alistair MacIntosh calls it empowerment of the people. I call it common sense.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 14:44


The Galson situation is not a hostile buyout. It is well known that last year the community progressed a deal with the landowners. The Galson buyout will be a private purchase and as such will Not require any approval from the Scottish Executive. The Pairc buyout is hostile as landlord Barry Lomas is challenging the buyout. A fair amount of villagers are also against the Pairc buyout. Don't forget, these current landlords are not rich millionaires and have never curtailed development on these estates. Thier families purchased the land when islanders rejected it when offered to them free. Neither business plan is dependent upon any giant windfarms. It has always been a requirement of Community Land/Scottish Land Fund applications that land buyouts should be sustainable without such risky developments. Communities must come up with their own locally controlled projects. In any case the Pairc buyout has nothing to do with the Eishken windfarm. In fact Scottish and Southern Energy intend to submit a planning application for its own giant windfarm on Pairc - it was this plan which triggered the buyout proposals about three years ago now. The Eishken windfarm could be bigger than the revised plans as the owner took out far more turbines - about double I think, than he need have done. Watch out for an additional planning application for an extension going in for the same area in a couple of years time. The Pairc buyout will be the focus of a legal test case. The landlord has set up separate legal companies to control the SSE windfarm profits after any hostile buyout. Such a company, using interposed leases, is assigned a long-term rental on the land from the landlord/estate. It effectively becomes the landlord. The idea is that the windfarm developer will sub-lease the turbine sites from this interposed landlord. So even if the actual land is taken away from the owner the payments from the windfarm developer is due to the interposed leasee. The Scottish Executive is using Pairc to test the legalities of this although it could take ages.

John Macleod from Glasgow

Thanks for the support Arnish, I would like to emphsise that the buyout is about more than just the windfarms. It is about bringing economic stability to the estate and allowing the residents to decide what legacy is left for future generations. We still have a £42,000 shortfall to make up but we are looking at a number of fundraising initiatives. Visit to find out more about the work of the trust.

JS from Ness

I would just like to make a small comment on what bringing wind farms to the south lochs would distrupt alot of things. My grandparents live in the cottage on the first on the left - mr and Mrs Phillips and they feel strongly opposed to the wind farms, they moved up there for peace and quite and a nice peacful life which they have. However, windfarms will bring lots of traffic (when building) and it probably won't even open up new job opportunities on the island as they will more than likely ship people over. It will produce pollution when building, mess, noise and most importantly a sight sore on the south lochs.

Jennifer Ainsworth from England-Bolton

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