Unst Partnership to grow after asset transfer

Baltasound in Unst. Photo: John Coutts/HIE

UNST Partnership is to become the first community enterprise to benefit from acquiring a publicly owned asset from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

It will purchase and refurbish the building it currently leases from HIE in Hagdale, Baltasound, in order to create a recycling facility and second-hand shop as well as a new part-time post to help run it.

It is the first acquisition through an asset transfer under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

The group will create a dedicated recycling service which will be the first on Unst. A planned second-hand shop will also be owned and operated by members of the Unst community and the facility will also be used as the base for the organisation.

Unst Partnership, which is operated by volunteers, was the first organisation to apply for an asset transfer from HIE, which agreed to sell the building for £18,000 – £5,000 less than the market valuation – in recognition of the additional community benefits the transfer delivers.

In March this year, the organisation was was successful in receiving a Scottish Land Fund award of £38,469 to help it purchase the building and develop it.

Unst Partnership chairman Gordon Thomson said: “We’re glad our asset transfer request is going ahead and we will also be able to use our Scottish Land Fund award. We are looking forward to owning our own premises and getting on with developing the new service.

“There’s already been a great response from the community, with lots of goods donated.”

HIE area manager Rachel Hunter said: “We have worked with the Unst Partnership for many years and we are delighted to support them to purchase the building.

“Ownership will allow them to invest in the building to provide new services to the community, generate income and reduce its overheads which will improve the organisation’s long-term sustainability.”

She said it would also give the group a stronger asset base to help safeguard other projects it supports including community allotments, a trailer-hire service and tourism initiatives such as signage for walking routes and a community skip scheme.

Hunter added: “The recycling service would complement the skip service and make use of household and commercial waste from across the island. We wish them all the very best in this venture and look forward to working with them in the future.”

The community empowerment act, which came into force last January, makes it easier for communities in Scotland to take over land or buildings that are currently in public ownership.

Communities can ask to buy or lease the assets or have other rights such as to occupy or use them for a specific purpose while clearly benefiting the community it represents.

The Unst Partnership was set up in 2000 to regenerate the isle following the closure of Unst Airport and the Ministry of Defence’s decision to scale down operations at RAF Saxa Vord.