Isle of Eigg : land reform, people, and power
Morgan, Daniel Rhys
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An historiographical analysis of the present political debates regarding land reform in Scotland provides the point of departure for a case study of the Isle of Eigg and the 1997 purchase of the island by the Isle ofEigg Heritage Trust. The case study details the island community's historical development and researches the building pressures that culminated in two successive campaigns for community ownership in 1992 and 1996-7. Through interviews, focus groups, and 3 years of regular visits to the island a comprehensive social history of Eigg is consequently compiled and analysed, within which, particular attention is given to the role of island proprietors and their problematic relationships with the resident community. Using a highly participative methodology of research, the author took an active role in the facilitation and promotion of the islanders' ideas for community ownership. This is detailed together with the participative management plan that resulted from planning workshops and exhaustive interviews with island households. The process of community empowerment is traced through the workshops, the drafting of the management plan and the unique partnership that was eventually formed between the islanders, the Highland Council, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. This is followed by an 'insider's view' of the Isle of Eigg Appeal, which had as much impact on the island as it did in the national media. The most successful public appeal in the Highlands and Islands to date is also examined from a marketing perspective, that explains how indeed, 64 islanders managed to raise £1.6 m in just 8 months without mains electricity nor Lottery backing. Finally, the central lessons of the community's success are used to highlight the importance of community development in any future policies of land reform in Scotland. The conclusion thereby emphasises the importance of integrated planning, community participation, and appropriate packages of support in establishing similar community trust models of ownership.