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Galson Trust looks forward to a busy 2020

"Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn celebrated 13 years of community ownership in early 2020. Lisa Maclean, the community land trust’s manager said: “The land was purchased by the community in 2007, and we celebrated our anniversary on the 12th of January. That was just the first milestone in what is set to be a very busy year for us.” “More and more communities across Scotland are taking control of the places where they live through community land ownership, creating benefits not just for existing residents, but also for the generations to come. Community land ownership has grown significantly and this is very evident in the Western Isles, with over 70% of people living on community-owned land. Communities living in these types of areas often feel more in control of local decision making and have opportunities to create jobs, the ability to generate income which can be invested back into the community, and in many areas, population growth is a reality, also. The Galson Estate is one example of how community ownership can support people to use local resources in a way that enhances economic opportunities, whilst improving social conditions in a sustainable way.” Another exciting development is that the Trust are on target to have their offices rebuilt this year. “We are in the process of tendering for the rebuild of the offices we lost in a devastating fire last February,” explained Lisa. “We have a design team on board and have been granted planning permission. It is hoped work can start on the site in April, and we’ll have a new office back on site at the end of the year.”

The stone which was unveiled at Galson Farmhouse on 12 January 2007. It was moved to the new office in 2012 and will once again take pride of place in the rebuild.

Plans are also in the workings for a brand new mini-festival, Fèis na Fairge, complementing the Trust’s annual autumn heritage festival. Lisa revealed: “We have run our week-long award-winning Dùthchas heritage festival for the past couple of years, celebrating the Gaelic language, music, traditional skills and all aspects of our culture. Dùthchas has been really successful, engaging the community and visitors in over 30 events across the estate. We thought we could introduce a shorter festival at the beginning of the tourist season, to encourage visitors to engage with the local community." Fèis na Fairge will align with Scottish Government's themed Year of Coasts and Waters2020 and will showcase the many coastal assets of the estate. Furthermore, it will enable the community to consider how to sustainably manage and conserve the marine environment. Lisa continued: “A programme of events is being planned and we hope to showcase coastal wildlife as well as celebrating the many skills, talents and the heritage from our marine and coastal environment.” The programme is currently being finalised, but Lisa encourages anyone who is interested to keep an eye on the Galson Estate Trust website.

The focus on coasts and waters builds upon some of the ground-breaking work the Trust has undertaken to return control of the foreshore and seabed to the local community. In mid-2019, Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn entered in a joint bid with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to Crown Estate Scotland to seek the management powers to a local level. The joint bid was accepted on a pilot basis. Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn also have a Community Strategic Plan with a 20-year focus. The three priorities for the work being taken forward on the estate are identified as: Contributing to Care and Wellbeing, Tourism, and Crofting and Land Use. Lisa explained: “We have an ongoing programme called ‘Sunnd’, which seeks to build capacity within the community, helping community-centred approaches to be adopted in relation to health and wellbeing.” The Trust work closely with other organisations to deliver the ‘Sunnd’ programme and they are working with the Health and Social Care partnership to explore Community Led Support. Lisa explained: “It isn't about removing services, it's about finding the right solutions for people and working with the professionals to ensure we move toward genuine community-led support and challenge the accepted delivery of services, including statutory services." But in addition to these community events and the many development projects being taken forward, the Trust stays true to its most traditional role. “We are here to manage the community-owned crofting estate,” said Lisa. “A large part of our core activity is to undertake the administration of the estate and a small sub-group from our volunteer board of trustees supports the ‘factoring’ of the estate. Community-owned estates rely heavily on volunteers to support the work they take forward. Our board of trustees are members of the local community and give us many hours to support not only the core activities, but also the projects and development work that is undertaken."

“Community ownership comes with great responsibility, but also with great opportunity, and that is evident from the many wonderful things happening on community-owned land across the Western Isles.”

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