There will be an invited audience from all over Scotland tomorrow (Thursday) for a key event in Stornoway about progress on the project for the St Kilda Centre – Ionad Hiort – in the Uig area of Lewis.
James Rebanks, the consultant appointed with support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to advise on the next stages of the project, will present his interim conclusions on the project’s business case.
Mr Rebanks, from Cumbria, has an international reputation as the leading specialist in World Heritage tourism. St Kilda is the UK’s only double World Heritage Site and the Uig project is the official UNESCO case study on “remote access” to World Heritage Sites in general.
The presentation will take place in the council chamber of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in Stornoway followed by a site visit in Uig.
The initiative to create an Ionad Hiort/St Kilda Centre came from five organisations – HIE, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, National Trust for Scotland, Visit Scotland and the National Gaelic Arts Agency. In 2010, they formed an ad hoc group which invited communities to put forward proposals for the Centre.
The cliff-top site at Mangersta was unanimously selected, though it has always been clear that other communities in the Western Isles will be involved. Since then, an enormous amount of work has been undertaken by the local community company that was established to define and advance the project.
However, Uig is a small and economically fragile community and it was always intended that, at the appropriate point in time, there would be re-engagement with the original sponsoring bodies, other potential funding sources and interested parties in order to bring the project to fruition.
James Rebanks has engaged widely with stakeholder bodies, the local community and many other interested and potentially interested parties. He has examined the economic feasibility of the project and the many associated issues involved in ensuring that it is a sustainable undertaking in every sense of the term.
Iain Buchanan, chairman of Ionad Hiort steering group, said: “The response to this event has been excellent. It confirms how much interest there is, at national and international levels as well as locally, in St Kilda, its unique history and heritage.
“This is an opportunity for our various partners to discuss this important study before it is concluded in March and will be a key milestone in the development of Ionad Hiort.”