"THIS is a moment we'd never thought we'd see," Morven Gregor said as she signed her name on a dotted line.

She was followed by dozens of other people, each of them signing an individual lease with the Carbeth Hutters Community Company (CHCC).

In the setting of Blanefield village hall yesterday, a historic occasion was unfolding – not just for the hutters of Carbeth but also for the entire story of land ownership in central Scotland.

A loan arrangement with Triodos Bank, a Dutch-based sustainable bank, has allowed the CCHC to purchase 98 acres of hutting areas of Carbeth Estate from the previous owners, the Barns-Graham family, for £1.75 million.

The deal caps 15 years of dispute, including a prolonged rent strike, and negotiation.

The bank loan, which has a 25-year repayment period, is for £1.5 million, the balance having been raised by the hutters themselves.

The signing of the individual leases by the Carbeth hutters at Blanefield was overseen by Ms Gregor, chair of the CHCC, and Gerry Loose, its secretary.

"The future of hutting is now in our hands," said a delighted Ms Gregor. "We are looking forward to keeping hutting alive in the 21st century."

Mr Loose added: "Carbeth can now begin to celebrate its part in Scotland's history, and open its doors to all-comers so we can see how we did it."

There are 143 huts across the 98 acres at Carbeth. None of them has ever had electricity or running water, forcing the huts' owners to be self-sufficient.

"Some of the older huts, like ours, have gas lighting, which is run off a gas bottle and is really nice," said Ms Gregor as she and Mr Loose walked around the picturesque, snowy hutting areas prior to the signing.

"Apart from that, most people use candles or lamps. Others use solar panels or wind jennies. It's really a test of folk's ingenuity. Living lightly – that's what it's all about.

"Carbeth is different – it's not like spending time at a holiday lodge or anything like that. It is an entirely different way of life."

The Carbeth hutting community began in the years after the First World War, when three ex-servicemen were allowed by the landowner to establish a holiday fellowship on his land.

"People used to come and stay in the camp on summer nights, and it gradually emerged people wanted something a little more permanent," said Mr Loose. "Some tenants were given wooden floors, which made things a bit more comfortable, and in time walls and roofs were added."

The deal also includes the original Fellowship camp and the site of the area's original open-air lido, which once hosted galas attended by thousands of people.

David Cousland, Scotland Corporate Affairs manager at Triodos Bank, said: "We're looking forward to opening a new chapter in our relationship with the hutters community as they seek to develop their plans for the Carbeth site."

The Barns-Graham family, noting the difficulties in the financing of any land purchase in the current economic climate, said: "There must surely be very few land transactions of this type and magnitude in the UK at the present time."

The family said it looked forward to seeing the hutting operation "develop in the years ahead".

Because the Carbeth hutters are non-residential, they did not qualify for public funding in their buyout. But the fact they have done it themselves, with the support of the bank, makes the sense of achievement among the hutters even greater.

"The future of hutting is now in our own hands," an elated Ms Gregor said.