Scottish islanders 'over the moon' after buying school
A Scottish island with no shop, post office or pub is to get its first community building in almost 20 years.
Residents of Kerrera, which sits just off the coast of Oban, have been awarded funding to buy the island’s old school building with plans to turn it into a space for all islanders.
Residents will now have a place to come together to conduct island business as well as enjoy social activities, from parent and toddler groups to possibly film screenings and curry nights.
Weddings and other events could be held at the old school to help raise funds for other island projects.
Martin Shields, chairman of the Isle of Kerrera Development Trust, said the community building will be an important addition to island life.
He said: “We are absolutely over the moon. Taking the school into community ownership will be a genuine game changer for our island community and provide us with a place to gather for the first time in living memory.
“We have got an active community trust on Kerrera and we meet in people’s kitchens, in their barns or in their fields sitting on hay bales.
“Now we are going to have a place where we can get together and hatch our plans for the island.”
He added: “In a social sense, people do get together on the island but I think, particularly with the number of young kids on the island, having a place where mums and dads can get together with their children will make a big difference.
“Over the years, it has been a very sociable island and now we will have the ability to plan events, like a curry club or a cinema night, and bring people together.”
The trust has been awarded just over £119,000 by the Scottish Land Fund to purchase the building and pay a part-time project worker who will help attract funding for future developments on the island.
At present, 64 people live on Kerrera full time - including 16 children - with the young population and a growing number of retirees making the need for a public hall even more pressing, Mr Shields added.
Kerrera sits a short ferry ride away from Oban with around 15,000 people visiting the island for its wildlife, scenery and history every year.
The school closed its doors to pupils in 1999 with residents long holding an ambition to bring the building back into community use.
The go-ahead for the purchase was recently approved by Argyll and Bute Council, which owns the building.
Mr Shields added: “I’d like to thank our local councillors and the Lorn Islands Partnership for supporting our bid to purchase the school and we look forward to working in partnership with the Council and other local organisations.
“Now the hard work of fundraising for the renovation begins – we can’t wait to get the building back into use”
Councillor Robertson, on behalf of the Oban Lorn and Isles Area Committee, said he was delighted the sale had been approved.
“This community ownership project is great news for all concerned,” he added.
Sebastian Tombs, chairman of the Lorn Islands Partnership, which supports community-led developments, said: “Fantastic projects like this demonstrate the value of our Partnership and of Easdale, Lismore, Luing and Kerrera pooling their resources to enable great strides forward in securing the sustainability of our small island communities.”
A major project being pushed by the Kerrera community is a new road to connect the north and south of the island.
If those in the north wanted to travel to the new community building, which is the centre of the island, they would have to travel by boat or quad bike.
The estimated cost of the road is £800,000 with hopes that Argyll and Bute Council will contribute a portion of the cost.