Raasay crofters' anger at loss of sporting rights

Raasay Rights to shooting and fishing on Raasay had been held by crofters for 18 years

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Crofters have accused the Scottish government of acting like an absentee landlord after granting an island's sporting rights to an Ayrshire firm.

The lease to manage fishing and shooting on Raasay, an island off Skye, had been held by Raasay Crofters Association since 1994.

The association was out-bid by South Ayrshire Stalking in the latest tendering process.

The government said it was aware of local concerns.

Girvan-based South Ayrshire Stalking met crofters on Monday and offered to work with them.

First Minister Alex Salmond was challenged on the matter by Labour MSP Rhoda Grant during First Minister's Questions on Thurday.

Mr Salmond said the government was bound by ministerial rules in dealing with the lease.

But Raasay Crofters' Association secretary, Anne Gillies, has said the government's handling of the lease recalled the way land and properties on the island were controlled by a Sussex-based landowner in the 1960s.

Dr John Green was nicknamed Dr No by islanders after blocking the sale of some houses to locals and preventing the construction of a car ferry pier.

Islanders on Raasay are objecting to the decision to lease shooting rights on the island to a firm after 18 years

Mrs Gillies said: "It seems incredible that we are facing the same situation that Raasay faced 50 years ago.

"We thought these times were past in the age of community buyouts and local control."

Her husband, crofter Andrew Gillies, said islanders had been successful at managing the rights and also building up business around the sale of venison locally.

Deer stalking

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said the crofters' association bid for the lease was "substantially" lower than the winning bid.

He added that safeguards were in place to protect islanders if the lease was not managed appropriately.

Mr Wheelhouse said: "We have made sure that the successful bidder is going to work with the local community.

"If there is a breach of the contract in any way the lease could be reopened for new tender."

Raasay Crofters Association was launched 18 years ago to manage the rights on behalf of local crofters after public body Skye and Lochalsh Enterprise told the then Scottish Executive that it no longer wished to lease them.

Deer stalking is available in October. Shooting of woodcock started in 2004, while permits are sold for trout fishing on most of the island's lochs.

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