The future looks bright for Harris co-operative ‘Co Chomunn na Hearadh’ as the initiative celebrates being awarded charitable status. 

Responsible for running ‘An Clachan’ stores in Leverburgh, the group will not now have to pay corporation tax, enabling investment in several projects to boost the community. 

Chairman of Co Chomunn na Hearadh, Chris Ross, said the development would be of great benefit to the local area.

“All profits can now go directly into funding community projects, as opposed to getting swallowed up in tax,” he said.

“Now we are a charitable status, we don’t pay corporation tax, and when you consider that last year we paid out £12,500 in corporation tax, that is a lot of money that we can re-invest or put to use elsewhere.

“Obviously we still abide by financial rules and get audited, but the money will go to enhance services.”

First on the group’s radar is improving car parking around An Clachan, as well as upgrading the shop itself.

“An Clachan is the money machine, so we have to maintain it properly,” said Chris.

“The profits currently generated from retail and food aren’t enough to maintain it. 

“But by getting charitable status we can apply for grant funding to assist us.”

He added: “Once we get An Clachan refurbished we can look at putting our surplus into the various community projects we have on the go.”

All profits from An Clachan are re-invested in the business, and in 2007 the community co-op bought its premises from Highlands & Islands Enterprise after many years of leasing. 

Since then it has invested heavily in the building – installing new windows, re-arranging the sales areas, re-wiring the building and painting and decorating.

But Co Chomunn na Hearadh insist there is still much to be done.

An Clachan also operates the only petrol pump for miles, although there is no big petrol station sign because the business doesn’t qualify for one on the level of sale.

A voluntary management committee oversees Co Chomunn na Hearadh, which employs a full-time manager and six full-time staff and one part time worker to run the shop.

In addition to catering for local shopping needs, An Clachan also provides a platform for local art and craft to display and sell their wares.

It is also a vital tourist information point for the many visitors that travel through the Western Isles each year.