Hello dear readers, we hope you are well this month, whether on Arran, in Scotland or ‘the other side of the world’. It is the start of the school holidays and if you’re here there are some lovely summery events to go to. The Nature Library will be at COAST at the end of the month, the Arran Visual Arts exhibition is making its return, and at the very start on 3rd, is the Arran Tennis Open. If you’re feeling inspired by Wimbledon and want to try and channel your inner Harmony Tan, there is still just time to register!
‘Holidays’ are not just the current topic in Arran as the schools break up (and the ferries break down). As this issue of the Voice has come together, we hear how across Scotland communities are trying to deal with the realities that living in a popular holiday destination bring. Talk of holidays quickly leads to matters of holiday homes and AirB&B, to lack of affordable housing and a host of other land related problems. The issues are well-known, the statistics glaring – villages where 50% of properties stand empty in the off season; cottages that go for more than double the asking price to off-shore investors; deals made where estates that are sold never reach the open market. In Dream Island Home Nightmare, Dougie Strang says, “From semi-derelict bungalows to 10,000-acre estates, from token gift plots to Air B&B portfolios, demand exceeds supply and the prices rise and rise. This is the way of Capitalism; this is the way of a property market unbound by regulation.”
In the spaces that can be eked out in this heated housing climate, there are some interesting and creative responses by communities on the horizon. Recently the Arran Development Trust has said that it would support a rates levy on second homes, with proceeds made going back to the community. Elsewhere in the Hebrides, a new social enterprise called IsleHoliday has been created. It is a holiday lettings website for the Scottish Islands, similar in function to AirB&B, but they reinvest the commission into creating jobs, supporting small businesses and housing projects. The idea is tourism for the community, where the local population is placed at the centre of the tourist economy, and the benefits are potentially huge.
The Arran Huts project is another part of an alternative vision for recreational and ecological living. Hutting is a practice that became popular after the Second World War in Scotland and has recently begun to grow as a movement again. With a focus on impermanent dwelling places made from natural sustainably sourced materials, hutting can generate both a different relationship between tourists and the local community as well as a lighter footprint on the earth. Arran Huts say they “aim to build long term relationships, stable tourism and reliable income year round to local businesses… and show an example model that directly links tourism, place and its conservation.”
These sound like wonderful projects to me, and while they may not be able to resolve the deepest issues, until the government ensures more regulation and community buy-outs become widespread, they are initiatives that will guide tourism in the right direction. There is even the chance that landowners might gift land back to communities one day, as Dougie Strang conceives. And I couldn’t help cheering when I read his words, “Go on, I find myself urging the ‘good lairds’ and the ‘green lairds’, those who consider themselves to be no more than stewards of the land. Go on, give it back. Don’t ask the Scottish Land Fund to pay out millions of pounds to cover today’s over-inflated prices. Give it back. It isn’t really yours.”
We hope you enjoy the issue and have a happy month! Elsa