Tributes paid to land reform champion Allan Macrae

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TRIBUTES are being paid to a “land reform hero” who led Scotland’s first community buy-out 20 years ago.

Allan Macrae, 73, was chairman and founder of the ground-breaking Assynt Crofters Trust.

His body was discovered in the Lochinver area on Monday following a search.

Tributes were led by Local MSP Rob Gibson, who knew him personally.

He said: “I am deeply saddened and shocked by the news, my condolences go to his family and friends at this difficult time.”

He added: “Make no mistake about it Allan Macrae was a land reform hero I can pay no higher tribute than that.

“He was at the forefront of the modern day land rights movement. The Assynt crofters were trail blazers in the land reform movement.

“You simply cannot underestimate how Allan along Bill Ritchie and John MacKenzie changed the landscape of the Highlands and Islands for the better.

“I had the pleasure to know Allan and am shaken by the news. I think that his mother was an actress and you could tell as he had a presence and the gift for talking. The Highlands and Scotland has lost an important voice today but it is one that will live on in history.”

Land won

After the Assynt Crofters won the land, Allan addressed the crowd that had gathered in Store School.

He said: “Well ladies and gentlemen, it seems we have won the land. It certainly is a moment to savour. There is no doubt about that and certainly my immediate thoughts are to wish that some of our forebears could be here to share this moment with us.

“In winning the land, Assynt crofters have struck a historic blow for people on the land right throughout the Highlands.”

Mr MacRae, along with Bill Ritchie and John MacKenzie, formed a steering group in 1992 to fight off the possible fragmentation of the former Assynt Estate by aiming for 100% crofter ownership. When the buy-out was completed in 1993, it was a milestone in Scottish and crofting history.

John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust and also Eigg Heritage Trust, which went on to do their own community buy-out following Assynt’s success, said: “He was an inspirational leader.

“He was the figurehead everyone saw. He played a huge pivotal role in community buy-outs.”

Former Highlands and Islands MSP Peter Peacock said: “I am very sorry to hear of Allan’s death. He was an inspiring figure and one of three key people who drove the historic Assynt crofters land buyout, the event which more than any other has provided the lead to other communities to follow.

“Alan had a deep passion about the land and a rousing way of expressing it which would lift any audience and commanded attention. He knew the effects of large tracks of land being outwith local control, and he did something about it in the best traditions of radical land reformers breaking new ground.”