Campaigners kick off a 'summer of activism' with Common Weal Skye conference

Activist group launches new set of events to empower local people

COMMON WEAL SKYE is putting on a series of summer events which aim to encourage people to think radical ideas and solutions for rural communities.

The first of these events kicks off this weekend on Saturday 22 April at the An Crùbh community hub on Sleat, Skye at 7pm.

Among the policy ideas discussed will be land reform, land use, housing and how to create a thriving economy among rural populations. Organisers supported by the pro-independence thinktank Common Weal have described it as a “think, talk and do event.”

“Likewise, a portion of common grazing in each township should be set aside for housing for the wider community.” Alasdair Stephen

Shaz Morton, one of the organisers of the event, told CommonSpace: “There will be a speaker at each event and afterwards all present will split up into working groups to work on three questions/points developed by the speakers and CW Skye organisers.

“By the end of each event we want to have three-five policy points on the topic in hand that will then be published in Common Policy; a working group from those present will be proposed for each topic to actively continue the work of the initial meeting.

“Speakers will hopefully take the points into their own activism and Common Weal Skye will try to make the points have a life after the meeting.”

But apart from policy discussion, the first evening will feature singing, dancing, music and food as part of the entertainment. Speaking at the event called ‘Lighting up the Glens’ will be Common Weal’s head of policy Ben Wray and Alasdair Stephens co-founder of Dualchas Architects, which celebrated its 20th birthday last week.

Morton said that an influence behind the drive to hold the evening’s event was issues that affect communities all across rural Scotland. For example, despite a rise in a number of community buyouts of land, the resource is still expensive for those looking to find or make a home.

“By the end of each event we want to have three-five policy points on the topic in hand that will then be published in Common Policy.” Shaz Morton

In Sleat on Skye, it costs around £80,000 for a plot of land, an extra £220,000 to build the house and all without the aid of government grants. Campaigners point to this being three and a half times the typical salary of a 26 year old. The effect has been a loss of youth from island and rural communities along with a decline in the life and culture which define existence there.

Alasdair Stephen said: “So what is to be done?  First of all, vision and leadership is required from Nicola Sturgeon (this is not an issue for a junior Housing Minister). The vision is the thriving, dynamic economy that could be created. The leadership is in making it happen. That is the difficult bit. I have some ideas.

“The fundamental purpose behind crofting should be to keep people on the land and to allow communities to grow.  If you are a crofter you should be obliged (or forced even) to provide a small plot of land for any family member who wants to stay.  Children at the local school are more important than sheep.  Likewise, a portion of common grazing in each township should be set aside for housing for the wider community. Younger brothers, older and younger sisters (as well as other locals) should not be denied the opportunity to build a home just because they did not inherit the croft.”

Picture courtesy of Maman Voyage

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