The Crofting Community of Bernera is currently in an on-going process of trying to secure a community land buyout of the Great Bernera Estate.
In 2013 the Great Bernera Community Development Trust (GBCDT) was formed to assist the community in assessing the benefits of community land ownership. It commissioned a feasibility study to identify the economic, social, and environmental potential of the Bernera Estate; and to address the viability of community ownership. The results of this study deemed that a Community Land Buy-Out would be a viable and positive step forward for the future of the inhabitants of Bernera.
In 2015 a community vote resulted in 85% (142 residents) showing favour for a Buy-Out and 15% (37 residents) against. With this overriding positive result, negotiations to purchase the Great Bernera Estate began. This process however was not a simple affair as the previous, popular landowner, Count Robin de la Lanne-Mirrlees had passed away in 2012, leaving the Estate to his grandson, Cyran de la Lanne-Mirrlees. As such between 2012 to 2021, the Estate was held in a Trust until Cyran reached 25 years of age. The buyout project, initially filled with hopeful anticipation had turned into a long process of protracted negotiations between the Trust and the Executor of the late Count Mirrlees Will.
In time, the Trust were able to make an offer for the Estate, based on a land valuation, however this was rejected on the grounds that it was insubstantial. A higher offer was then made in 2017 which was also rejected. It appeared that negotiations had reached an impasse.
Having put in so much time, cost and effort over the years, the community, headed by John Porteous and Tom MacDonald, were not keen to give up and began to look at the option of forcing a sale under Part 3 of the Land Reform Act, the ‘Crofting Community Right to Buy’. However, to go down this route, many legal and procedural steps, including a crucial vote, had to be taken before the Trust could apply for a ‘Part 3’. An application was eventually submitted to the Scottish Government in 2021.
In June 2022, having moved no further on in this process, MSP, Alasdair Allan took the difficulties facing Bernera residents to debate in the Scottish Parliament, highlighting the problems our community is facing and calling for more support from the Scottish Government (see live debate here – Watch now | Scottish Parliament TV . Time will tell, but we hope that in the future, Bernera may be able to join the many other local communities who have bought their land and are seeking to reshape their own future.
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