Fears that iconic island Eilan Bàn may go up for sale to the highest bidder

IT WAS home to Ring of Bright Water author Gavin Maxwell in the final months of his life and provides the base for one of the main supports for the Skye Bridge.

But now the future of one of Scotland’s smallest islands is in doubt amid concern that Eilan Bàn – Gaelic for “White Island” – could be put up for sale by the Scottish Government.

The island, once owned by Sir Tom Farmer, the founder of Kwik-Fit, has been leased since 1998 for a peppercorn rent to the Eilean Bàn Trust, which runs the outcrop and its historic lighthouse, built by David and Thomas Stevenson, and now an education centre and nature reserve.

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The trust’s lease is not due to end until 2015. But the trust, backed by local MSP Dave Thompson, is fighting to secure a future for the island following claims Transport Scotland is planning to sell it after first offering it to other government departments.

Hugh Davies, chairman of the Eilean Bàn Trust, said: “My understanding is that the Scottish Government initially plan to offer the island round various departments to see whether or not any of them have a reason for retaining it. And if that fails it will be offered back, in the first instance, to the previous owner, Sir Tom.

“It is a great concern to the trust. Ideally we would like to see the island being gifted to the trust or sold to us for a nominal sum. Alternatively we would like a further long lease of say 25 years.

“The worst-case scenario would be for a third party to buy the island and then just abandon it.”

Mr Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, has written to Richard Lochhead, the Scottish environment secretary, calling on the government to protect the island.

“Ideally I would like to see the island sold to another government department, such as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH),” he said.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We recognise the importance of Eilean Bàn and our first steps will be to talk to other government departments and agencies, including SNH and Historic Scotland among others, who may be interested in taking over ownership of the island.”