Alastair Davis: Social investment can change lives

Portpatrick
Portpatrick
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Portpatrick is a historic harbour village in the south-west of Scotland. Popular with tourists, the harbour provides an important boon for local shops, restaurants and accommodation providers. When it came up for sale in 2015, the local community moved fast to secure the harbour for the future of the local economy.

Locals set up the Portpatrick Harbour Community Benefit Society to raise community shares to buy the harbour. More than 550 local people, those with a connection to Portpatrick and even supporters from abroad ensured the share offer was quickly oversubscribed in the village’s bid to raise the £100,000 required.

It was a tight timetable trying to generate the necessary share capital before the deadline for purchasing the harbour. With just ten days to spare, Social Investment Scotland (SIS) helped the society with a last-minute loan to bridge the gap. For society chair, Calum Currie, SIS’s intervention has safeguarded Portpatrick’s identity and future as a holiday destination.

Because so many local people contributed to the harbour purchase, there has been the knock-on benefit of greater community spirit in the village – a sense of shared ownership. Wider discussions have begun about what is currently happening and what else could be achieved.

For instance, the society has taken over land adjacent to the harbour as community asset transfers. New showers and wi-fi in the toilet block will increase the harbour’s appeal to boat-users whilst providing some income towards future developments. Upgraded moorings have already doubled capacity and increased income, with more people visiting by boat, which provides an additional boost to local businesses. Local employment is also set to benefit with two posts in the pipeline to manage and service the harbour facility.

Looking even further ahead, there are opportunities to develop more ideas, such as a harbour heritage centre to tell the village’s story.

Matthew and Amelia Gregory came upon Portpatrick two years ago while touring in their campervan. They have since bought and run two local businesses – The Port Pantry gift shop, café and deli and The Boardwalk takeaway – and now call the village home.

The couple invested in the share issue to buy the harbour as they wanted to be part of it and knew how important the harbour was to both the future success of the village and their livelihood.

Matthew believes the village is nothing without the harbour. “It is literally central to its success. We’ve only seen positives since the community buy-out and more boats will come once the showers and other facilities are in. If the share issue hadn’t happened, who knows what it would be like now?”

Social Investment Scotland provides investment for charities and organisations looking to make a real difference to people’s lives, society or the environment. Since launching in 2001, SIS has invested over £56 million to 270 social enterprise projects across Scotland.

More details about SIS’s investments and its impacts can be found in SIS annual Impact Report http://www.socialinvestmentscotland.com/social-impact-report-2017/.

Alastair Davis, CEO, Social Investment Scotland