Lifeline Raasay shop wins community award

Raasay Community Stores crowned best in Scotland for contribution to community. Picture: Contributed
Raasay Community Stores crowned best in Scotland for contribution to community. Picture: Contributed
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IT serves a community of only 150 Hebridean islanders and was on the brink of closure just four years ago.

But Raasay Community Stores reached out in a bid to help save it from shutting down - and it has now been crowned best in Scotland for contribution to community

The shop has been crowned the winner of the Scotland Award as part of the Rural Community Ownership Awards 2016, the only national awards programme recognising community co-operation around the UK.

The Community of Raasay Retail Association (CORRA) was set up in 2012 to purchase and run the only shop on the island when it was under threat of closure.

Many of the 150 islanders joined as members, but also people living further afield who had a link with the island and were keen to give it their support joined up.

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A total of £13,000 was raised from shares and this was matched by funding from Village SOS, the Prince’s Countryside Fund and Highland and Islands Enterprise.

As a result Raasay Community Stores opened it’s doors in September 2013 as a community owned business, employing five local people.

This included manager David Carslaw, who said: “We are open six days a week and supply all manner of fresh, frozen and dried goods, beer, wine and spirits, local produce, gifts and souvenirs, daily newspapers and stationery, as well as running the local Post Office.

“We try to source goods from local suppliers where possible, and work closely with other businesses on the island.

“The shop can do deliveries and will introduce new stock that’s requested - it’s responsive to the community.”

Situated in the centre of the main village of Inverarish, Raasay Community Stores has become a community hub for islanders and a welcome stop-off point for tourists.

The Community Ownership Awards are run by Plunkett Foundation, the national charity supporting people to set up and run community co-operatives – businesses that are owned and run democratically by large numbers of people from within their local area – to help overcome issues ranging from isolation and loneliness to poverty.

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Tekela Koek, CORRA’s chair, said: “It was a real honour to represent Raasay Community Stores at the Plunkett Foundation Awards ceremony.

“I was truly delighted when it was announced that we were the winner of the Award for Scotland.”

Raasay Community Stores competed with shortlisted entries Buth Barraigh (Isle of Barra) and GlenWyvis Distillery (Dingwall) and was crowned the best community owned co-operative in Scotland.

The winners were announced at a national ceremony in London to an invited audience of over 100 special guests from around the UK.

Tekela thanked all of CORRA’s 260 members, staff and volunteers.

She added: “This is a great achievement and I was very proud to bring home the plaque to be displayed in the shop in recognition of all the work put in by everyone involved over the years.

“It is testament to our manager Davie and his staff team for going the extra mile to provide an excellent service and to all those who have volunteered their time and expertise since the seed was first planted in 2011.”

James Alcock of the Plunkett Foundation said: “We wanted to shine the light on those community co-operatives who have gone above and beyond for their local community, and all of the entries to this year’s awards were making a big difference to local people.”

“CORRA definitely fits this description, playing a big role in keeping Raasay alive and acting as an important community hub.”

Community co-operatives come in many forms: shops, pubs, bakeries, farms, community hubs, woodlands, broadband projects – the list is endless.

They are a business, but trade primarily for the benefit of the local community.

Like any business, a community co-operative must be profitable.

Due to their focus on the local community, and investing profits back into the business or local area, they are able to succeed where other commercial ventures may fail.

For example, around 400 commercial village shops close each year and in the region of 21 pub closures a week.

Community-owned shops and co-operative pubs not only represent a better form of business, they directly respond to some of the key challenges facing rural communities today such as lack of services and isolation.