A small Scottish island with less than a dozen residents is aiming to become an electric vehicle test bed – even though it has no tarred roads.
Ulva off Mull was bought out by the community for £4.4 million, three years years ago.
Now the organisation which led the community buyout hopes that buying an electric off-road fleet for a transport sharing scheme will encourage people moving to the island not to bring their own vehicles.
An electric quad bike and electric “utility task vehicle” – where two people can sit side-by-side – arrived on the island last week, and will be recharged using solar panels.
A membership scheme is being established for use of the vehicles, which were funded by the Scottish Government, which residents can book for tasks such as transporting their shopping from the ferry and moving other heavy items.
Most of the island’s diesel vehicles, such as a Land Rover, would be scrapped.
The North West Mull Community Woodland Company, which bought the island has already doubled its population from five to 11.
The company hopes to increase this to 25 people by 2025 – a similar level to two decades ago – then at least double that again to 50.
However, the North West Mull Community Woodland Company fears for Ulva’s tranquil environment, which is home to eagles, otters and rare butterflies, if the influx is accompanied by the island being swamped with vehicles.
Ulva Development Officer Wendy Reid, said: “The issue is how we can repopulate the island but also maintain the integrity of the environment we’ve inherited, which is relatively untouched.”
She told a Scottish Rural and Islands Transport Community online event: “Having a collective pool of vehicles available for residents to borrow will hopefully mean their transport requirements will be met without the need for them to own their own vehicle.”
Andy Primrose, the company’s vice chair, said: “People come to Ulva because it’s quiet – we don’t have noise from cars and roads.
“This is a fantastic opportunity which is probably quite rare, to create a transport system that is not reliant on cars or fossil fuels, because we are not wedded to a legacy of metalled roads and car usage.
“It’s hugely exciting. We can create something almost from scratch. Environmental damage is not only the fumes from cars, but also the noise.
“The only noise that comes from an electric quad bike is from the tyres, while you can hear a [traditional] quad bike from half a mile away.”
Ulva is also advertising for somebody to set up an oyster business. “We are now looking for someone interested in renting the site of a former oyster business on the north side of the island to develop a new commercial business.
“The site in Soriby Bay is relatively small with a maximum capacity of 300-400 4m long trestles. It was originally developed in the late 1990s and was worked for a period of approximately five years,” says the advert.
“A marine licence and planning permission will need to be obtained in order to establish a new business at the site.”
The Ulva estate covers 4,942 acres (2,000 hectares) and includes Ulva, as well as some land on nearby Mull. Ulva attracts around 7,000 tourists each year.
More than 350 people in 2019 expressed an interest in living on Ulva – but had been warned not to expect a decision soon.
In fact the prospective residents – if all were eventually selected to become islanders – would represent around a 6,000 per cent rise in the existing population.
Nestled off the coast of Mull in the inner Hebrides, the island was home to at least 800 people in its prime.
On June 21, 2018, the island was the subject of a successful – and controversial – community buyout. Islanders, represented by NWMCWC, were able to secure up to £4.4m in funds from the Scottish Land Fund and other grants and a crowdfunding campaign to allow it to buy the island.
Jamie Howard, whose family has owned the 4,500-acre island for more than 70 years, was unhappy about the sale. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives communities the right to register and then go on to buy land and assets under certain conditions.
Mr Howard previously said that the community group would “struggle to find suitable funding both for the purchase and development of the island, running into many millions of pounds.”
Mr Howard’s grandmother bought the island for £10,000 in the 1940s.