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Lochinver Scotland

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Information on the village of Lochinver in Scotland.

Assynt Crofters Trust

Background
In 1989, the Vestey family which owned much of Assynt, renamed the coastal strip North Lochinver Estate and sold it, in three parcels, for 1 million to a Swedish land speculator.

This "Estate" consisted of 21,300 acres and was made up of thirteen townships - Torbreck, Achmelvich (part), Clachtoll, Stoer, Balchladich, Clashmore/Raffin, Culkein Stoer, Achnacarnin, Clashnessie, Culkein Drumbeg, Drumbeg and Nedd.
Most of these townships stretch back hundreds of years, often with the same families living there and working the land. The people were not consulted and were given, in effect, a fait accomplis.

In 1992, the speculator went into liquidation, and a London firm of Liquidators appointed the previous selling agents, once again. This time, they divided the "Estate" into seven parcels, again without consulting the locals.

A public meeting was called, at which it was proposed that an attempt be made by the crofters of the area to raise sufficient money to bid for the land themselves. This was agreed and a Steering Committee formed. This committee was made up, in the main, from the grazings clerks of the townships - and was charged with guiding the project and keeping the crofters fully in the picture.

Within three months a feasibility study had been carried out with financial support from the Crofters' Union and the local Enterprise Company. Rumours began to circulate in the national press about this group of crofters who were trying to buy back their land.

When the campaign went public, offers of support and financial contribution began to pour in from all over the world. With such a high level of support, serious discussions could be opened with the Liquidators. Two offers were knocked back, but in December 1992 a deal had been reached. 300,000 pounds, of which almost half had come from locals and their supporters worldwide, was the agreed price. The rest was made up from grants and loans from public bodies.

North Assynt Estate was now owned by the Assynt Crofters Trust. They took title to the land on February 1st 1993.

The Trust
Today the Estate is "owned" by the crofters, free of debt and administered by its own Board of Directors who are elected, individually, for a three year period by the thirteen townships.

The four man Executive, which does the day to day running of the Trust, is directly responsible to the Board, which meets in public every two months.

The Work of the Trust
Since 1993, the Trust has achieved a great deal:
Crofting - 13 new entrants to crofting in 7 townships; Exploration of potential new crops; Co-ordinating a dipping programme for sheep scab; Improving links with the Scottish Agriculture College.
Development of Brown Trout Fishing - Sales of permits brings in 39% of the Assynt Crofters' Trust annual income; Sea Trout stocking and tagging; 8 boats bought and hired out to anglers on the lochs.
Woodland & Forestry - 800 hectares of native woodland developed; Work equivalent to 3 full time jobs from work contracted out locally; Research into remnant native woodlands. Tourism - Raised awareness of the Assynt area; Attracted over 1000 new bed nights; Researched into local tourism potential.
Housing - Research into local housing needs; 4 new houses built and occupied in Stoer township.
Renewable Energy - Research into the potential; Creation of Assynt Hydro Ltd; Commissioning of Loch Poll scheme.
Voluntary Time & Commitment - Equivalent of 2 full-time jobs or some 36,000 investment each year: 15 new Directors elected by townships over 10 years, bringing new skills and enthusiasm to the Board
Administration & Management - Creation of long term part-time job - The Cuidiche;
Development of financial and administrative systems; Administration of crofting in voluntary time; Making a profit annually and reinvesting in local area.

But the work goes on...

The Ten Years Anniversary was celebrated with a two-day Conference and Ceilidh at The Fank, Stoer.
The Conference provided the opportunity to look back, exchange views and celebrate the deeds of all the other groups which have followed the lead of the Assynt Crofters' Trust. The Ceilidh was fun!

The Story of the Assynt Crofters' Trust and the work which they had to do to regain their land has been told in a book:
"We Have Won the Land" written by John MacAskill and published by Acair Ltd. ISBN 0 86152 221 4 Price 12.99.

The Trust have their own website: www.assyntcrofters.co.uk where the latest developments can be followed, and photos of the "Fling in the Fank" can be viewed.

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