Tributes have been paid to the Stornoway lawyer Simon Fraser as one of the fathers of the modern land reform movement, following his death at 60 on the island of Lewis.
Although not widely known Mr Fraser, who died on Monday, was the legal adviser to most of the headline Highland community land buyouts from Assynt in 1992/93 onwards through the likes of Eigg, Knoydart, Bhaltos, Abriachan, Fernaig, Kylesku and Gigha.
His pioneering work is credited with helping deliver more than over half a million acres of Scottish land to community control.
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Lorne MacLeod, Chairman of Community Land Scotland, the umbrella organisation which represents community landlords, is in no doubt as to his importance.
He said he had been “a towering figure” in the world of community land ownership:
“Without the insights, personal commitment and legal work of Simon Fraser the community land ownership movement would not have made the progress it has made to date. Simon was behind the development of the legal structures for community ownership, but his insights on the history and issues around land ownership were constant drivers for the changes he so brilliantly supported in many communities across the Highlands and Islands.
“Simon had many, many friends among community land owners, people who respected and trusted him, who sought his wise counsel, and enjoyed his company and humour. Even while struggling with his health over recent times, Simon was keen to support and help Community Land Scotland shape its thinking around the land reform measures recently and currently before the Scottish Parliament.”
His close friend Dr Michael Foxley former leader of the Highland Council, said “Not many will appreciate how much Simon did for so many fragile communities in the Highlands and Islands. That they now have control of their own destiny is in no little part down to Simon’s huge personal commitment to the cause, and to his sheer professionalism.”