On Friday 1 February 2013 the members of the BLIH management committee agreed a resolution to wind-up the Development Group (BLIH) and transfer any existing funds to the Company, Ionad Hiort. For their part the current Directors of Ionad Hiort agreed that the former members of the Development Group would join the Board and become Directors of the Company. This new Board of Directors will now take the Ionad Hiort/St Kilda Centre project. The Directors are: Iain Buchanan (Chair), Tony Ingle-finch (Treasurer), Joni Buchanan (Secretary), Murdanie MacDonald, Janet MacLeod, John MacIver, Anna MacKinnon, Sarah Taylor-Gerloch, Cllr Norman A MacDonald, Cllr Angus McCormack, and Hugh Henderson, although not a Director, acts as Company Secretary. This winding up report, prepared by BLIH, highlights key steps in the development of the St Kilda Centre project to date.
- The relationship formed with UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre has transformed this from purely a local project into one which commands national and international recognition and support.
- A limited company has been established and registered as a charity. This body will hold title to the land and buildings (once built) and will be the primary applicant body for funding applications for the project.
- The site, identified as the location for the Centre, has been gifted to the community by the landlord, the area of land to be de-crofted has been approved by the local grazings, and the transfer of ownership will take place early in 2013. An information board and high powered binoculars will be installed at the site in the next couple of months.
- A Strategic Brief for the project has been developed by a small sub-group of the development group; the Brief will be added to as the project progresses but the current document is the essential blue print for Ionad Hiort.
- A series of discussions are underway with potential stakeholders and funders, notably with Historic Scotland and the Scottish 10 project, who have just completed laser scanning of the St Kilda archipelago. The group had a very useful meeting with SNH who are 100 per cent behind the project and will work with us in order to avoid any obstacles at the planning stage of the building. An SNH representative also spoke of the potential of marine/ environmental research collaborations between SNH and Ionad Hiort; assistance with pathways and an all Uig ranger service.
- The National Trust for Scotland have published their Management plan for St Kilda for the next 5 years, and have made specific reference to working with the St Kilda Centre to improve education on and interpretation of St Kilda.
- A decision has been taken recently to appoint a project development manager to oversee the important development work that needs to be done to bring the project to the point of capital investment. It is hoped a PDM will be in place by the end of September 2013.
- With regards to Remote Access Technology, there have been initial discussions with a number of RAT based companies, and it is hoped that these initial discussions will help to inform the final technological contents and interpretation available in the centre.
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the local community in Uig have responded very positively to a postal Community Appraisal in order to gauge public awareness of the project to date, and to invite further comments, and also concerns, about the potential development.
Local involvement is key to the UNESCO support for the project, and initial responses to the appraisal show that over 70% of the community are supportive of the project, and believe it will be of benefit to the community. Given the progress made by a small group of committed and passionate volunteers on a project of this scale and worldwide importance it is important to keep up engagement between the community group and the World Heritage Centre in Paris. This will ensure that the community and UNESCO both have the same understanding of the aims of the project in terms of being a case study in remote access technology and sustainable tourism. In short, we pass a on a project which has been advanced to a significant and perhaps remarkable degree given the relatively small number of people involved and the barriers of credibility that have had to be overcome. We also recognise how much is still to be done in order to bring the project to fruition and wish the new company great success on achieving this on behalf of Uig, the Western Isles and the memory of the St Kildan people.