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Crofting community due to vote in long-running land buyout battle

BALLOT papers have been sent out for a vote which should conclude the most protracted and acrimonious community buyout in the past 20 years.

The crofting community in the south east of the island of Lewis will almost certainly vote to buy the 26,800 acre Pairc Estate for £500,000, after a decade of trying.

It had been shaping up to be the first hostile buyout under the Scottish Parliament's land reform laws, in which the landowner was unwilling to sell.

Barry Lomas, of Leamington Spa, mounted a legal challenge in Stornoway Sheriff Court and the Court of Session.

He claimed he was being forced to sell to the Pairc Trust by the Scottish Government as revenge for the Highland Clearances. His legal challenge was founded on his human rights being infringed.

However, over a year ago, three judges headed by the Lord President Lord Gill, dismissed the appeal.

Progress away from this stand-off was thanks in no small part to David Cameron, veteran of the North Harris buyout and chairman of Community Land Scotland (CLS), acting in a personal capacity as an honest broker.

In November, at a public meeting, a proposal to accept the terms of a voluntary -and amicable - transfer of the estate to the community, negotiated by Pairc Trust, was overwhelmingly endorsed. A statement from the trust said: "All funding is now in place to cover the agreed purchase price of the estate (£500,000), associated legal costs and revenue costs for two full-time posts and associated costs over the first two years following purchase."

The Pairc Trust is being supported by the Scottish Land Fund with an award of £230,000 and £76,500 from Western Isles Council, and the same amount from Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The balance is being raised by the community.

Ballot papers are to be returned by March 13, with the result announced that evening.

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Local government

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