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New family boosts Canna’s population

Conservation charity, the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has confirmed that a family of four take up residence on the island of Canna from Friday 24 June.

The Spence family, who currently live in Laggan in Inverness-shire, will move into MacIssacs cottage which has recently been renovated thanks to support from generous donors keen to support the Trust’s work on the Inner Hebridean island.

Alison, Duncan and their children, two and a half year old Savourna and 5 month old Fergus and their two collies will play an important role in the community when they move to the island this week.

As in many island communities, the couple will carry out a range of roles. Duncan will act as the pier assistant and do some woodland management work. He has also secured a role with an innovative island car share scheme based in Mallaig. Duncan and Alison also plan to take on opportunities to work remotely, using IT systems from the island. As part of the selection and interview process, the family had to provide evidence that they could support themselves and their new life on Canna.

The couple are no strangers to island life, having previously lived on an island off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

Alison said: “We were looking for a change and felt that, after being in Laggan for ten years, it was time for something new. My sister spotted the Canna opportunity on the internet and we thought it might be just what we were looking for. It’s very different and a new way of life, but we’re prepared and positive about that.”

Stewart Connor, Property Manager on Canna said: “We are really excited that the Spences are joining us on Canna. The Trust and the community have lots of plans to work together to build a strong and sustainable community on Canna in line with the wishes and cultural objectives of John Lorne Campbell who gave the island to the Trust in 1981. He asked us to conserve the island’s unique landscape, its diverse wildlife and, most importantly, to maintain a viable community on Canna. We think that Alison, Duncan and the family will play an important part in that process.”

The Spence family are signing a five year lease for the cottage, and fully understand the Trust’s role and responsibilities in caring for and managing the Isle of Canna for the benefit of the nation.

The news comes after claims earlier in the year that families were quitting the tiny Hebridean isle due to frustration at having little control over island life and homes they rent.

Geoff Soe-Paing, who left the island with his wife Eilidh and their four children in May told the BBC that islanders needed a “hand in their own destiny”. Before their departure, another 4 people had reportedly quit the island with another couple making plans to leave later in the year. The NTS called the departures “disappointing”.

The trust added that it was also looking for more families to join the community. At the time, the BBC reported that Alexander Bennett from the NTS hoped a review of property tenures may find a way of encouraging families to stay longer.

Mr Bennett told the BBC: “We cannot sell property because we hold Canna in perpetuity for the nation. That means we cannot sell, but we can offer longer leases of up to 15 years which is what we normally do. Under law we could offer up to 20 years and maybe roll it on from there.”

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