McGrigor praises the Gigha community in parliamentary debate

Highlands & Islands MSP, Jamie McGrigor, praised the efforts of his constituents on the Argyll Isle of Gigha today during a debate in the Scottish Parliament marking the 10th anniversary of the community buyout of the island. He welcomed the increasing population on the island and urged fellow MSPs and others to visit it.

In his contribution to the debate, Jamie McGrigor said:

‘I am very happy to pay tribute to all of my constituents on Gigha and members and supporters of the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust for the efforts they have made and are continuing to make to create a sustainable and successful island community. The success of Gigha is an inspiration to other rural and island communities. The fact that the population on Gigha is rising and that the excellent primary school has 13 children is testament to the health of the island and something we can all celebrate.

‘Gigha is a beautiful island in a wonderful setting and I would encourage MSP colleagues and others listening today to visit it to experience Gigha for themselves. They can be sure of a very warm welcome and excellent hospitality, whether at the Gigha Hotel or in the various B&Bs or self-catering cottages. And the island’s Achamore Gardens, golf course and clean, sandy beaches are just some of the attractions available to tourists. The garden of course is testament to the memory of Sir James Horlick, founder of the famous malty drink whose slogan was ‘The Great Family Nourisher’; he grew a garden of great splendour which was much visited. I am sure he would be pleased to see the upward trend in the Gigha population.

‘Renewable energy remains a big- and often controversial- issue across my region and so the example of Gigha is worth highlighting. On Gigha the three Vestas V27 wind turbines, known locally as The Dancing Ladies, enjoy widespread community support, with the Gigha residents controlling the whole project and profit reinvested in the community. So successful has this been that local residents are seeking to erect a fourth turbine to join the current three dancing ladies. No-one on Gigha really thinks renewable developments are incompatible with tourism- rather they complement each other.

‘While I agree that valuable lessons can be learned from Gigha, not least in terms of community empowerment- something we all support- and the development of a practical island master plan that has helped foster economic development, we would be cautious about calls for further legislation on land reform and remain unconvinced that yet more legislation in this field is required or desirable.

‘We should recognise that Gigha has succeeded within existing land reform laws and seek ways of improving how these operate. We should also recognise the vital importance of the ferry link between Gigha and Tayinloan which has come under pressure of late. The islanders deserve a ferry service which encourages tourism and their lifeline activities. The Gigha buyout was not a hostile buyout but rather something encouraged by seller and buyer alike and I have to pay tribute to previous Argyll & Bute MSP, George Lyon, who gave a great deal of his time to this project. It is very seldom I praise the work of LibDem MSPs but in this case it would be churlish not to recognise the part he played.

‘I will conclude by wishing my constituents on Gigha continued success in the future. They are to be congratulated for proving that determined and dynamic community effort can make even the smallest and remotest island communities sustainable and economically successful.’

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