Eigg is a small island in the Hebrides: five miles by three, with 100 inhabitants. Try adding to your resilience challenges: harsh climate, high transport costs, poor soil, and … a series of despotic landlords.
However the gift was in the problem: the despots provoked Eigg’s people into creating the first community land buyout in Scotland, back in 1997. This was a truly heroic piece of pioneering: since then, legislation, funding, and new legal structures have made it far easier for the 60 or so other Scottish communities who have followed on this path.
Although the buyout of Eigg was almost 100% privately funded, the Eigg Heritage Trust have been persistent and successful since then in obtaining sizable grants which have created a resilient, sustainable infrastructure on the island. This includes:
- An impressive, home-grown electric grid, powered by a mix of hydro, wind and solar
- A new community hub with cafe, food and craft shops and a range of facilities for tourists and residents
- Renovation and new build to provide affordable housing, with a points system to prioritise needed skills, young families and returning islanders
- Revival of traditional crofting, integrated with good environmental management
There are two other features that really impressed me on my recent visit: one is the real quality of community, underpinned by a remarkable mix of skills within a population of only one hundred. The other is the astonishing beauty and sparkle of this land, with its exquisite beaches, birds, and mountains.
A great way to experience Eigg, and contribute to its progress, is to do a programme at Earth Connections, the new Eco Centre: see www.earthconnections.co.uk.