ISLANDERS have tonight voted two to one to push ahead with a community buyout of a 26,800 acre estate on Lewis at a cost of half a million pounds.
The result of the ballot by people living in the South Lochs area of the island to purchase Pairc Estate comes after 11 years of trying.
A £500,000 price has been agreed between community-led Pairc Trust and landowner Barry Lomas, of Leamington Spa, after it looked as though Pairc would be Scotland's first hostile community buyout.
In total, 166 people voted Yes, representing 68.3% of the vote, with 77 against (31.7%). There were 243 votes cast, representing a 62.7% turnout.
Chairman of Pairc Trust, Angus McDowall, said:
"This is a major step forward in our efforts to bring Pairc Estate into community ownership, which have been ongoing for over a decade. Now that the terms negotiated with the landlord for an amicable transfer of the estate have been endorsed by the community, we will proceed to conclude Missives and register title to the Estate as soon as possible."
He said the trust would be convening community meetings over the summer to refresh plans for developing the estate to create more local jobs, improve community facilities, and help reverse a century of population decline.
Years ago the community-led Pairc Trust had made clear it was willing to pursue the first 'hostile' buyout under the Scottish Parliament's land reform legislation. It allows a crofting community to buy its local land with ministerial approval when the landowner is unwilling to sell.
Mr Lomas mounted a legal challenge in the Court of Session in Edinburgh claiming his human rights were being infringed by the legilsaiton, but his appeal was dismissed.