The Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) has rejected assurances from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar about proposals for the sale of the current Stornoway abattoir site to a developer.
This follows a report before the Comhairle’s Policy and Resources committee on October 2 which outlined proposals for the sale and leaseback of the current Stornoway abattoir site to a developer and the relocation of the service after three years.
Councillors decided “to authorise the Director of Development, in consultation with the Director of Technical Services and the Director of Finance and Corporate Resources, to engage with the appropriate parties with a view to presenting options for the future use of Stornoway Abattoir and provision of abattoir services to the Policy and Resources Committee in December 2018.”
It was agreed also that the Director of Development submit a Report detailing the Comhairle’s range of support to crofting to a future meeting of the Crofting Joint Consultative Committee.
SCF board member, Donald Mackinnon said: “It is of great concern that the Comhairle would consider selling the site without concrete plans in place for how the service will be provided in the future.
“Before any discussions begin about the sale of the current site assurances must be given to the crofting community about where a new facility will be located and how its construction will be funded.
“Importantly, planning permission should be secured. A decision to sell the current abattoir site without these in place risks the future provision of abattoir facilities in Lewis and Harris and as a result the future of crofting itself in the area.”
SCF vice-chair Yvonne White added, “It would be very short sighted of the Comhairle to agree to the sale of the current site without firm plans in place for the future.
“We have seen in Skye just how difficult securing funding and obtaining planning permission can be for a small abattoir.”
Mr MacKinnon continued, “Without an abattoir facility in Stornoway, crofters in Lewis and Harris would be faced with a two-and-a-half-hour ferry trip, followed by a 45-mile road journey to get their livestock killed in Dingwall. For the vast majority of crofters this would simply be an unfeasible prospect.
“We welcome the acknowledgement that the current facility is in need of improvement. However, we feel that this could be best achieved on the current site. Undoubtedly there are changes that the crofters of Lewis and Harris would like to see, not least the extension of opening times outwith the autumn season.”
Mr MacKinnon concluded “The uncertainty of Brexit and the possible loss of traditional markets makes the option of selling direct to the consumer more important than ever for crofters.
“The Comhairle should recognise this and ensure that abattoir services continue to be provided in Stornoway."
“If the future of Scottish agriculture is to be high quality, niche products then access to small abattoirs is vital. It is time that the Scottish Government also acknowledges this and lends its support to the development and continuation of small abattoir facilities throughout the crofting counties.”