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Scalpay


(Scalpaigh)

A small island in the Outer Hebrides, Scalpay (Gael: Scalpaigh) lies off the east coast of Harris, 6 miles (10 km) southeast of Tarbert. It rises to 104m (341 feet) at Beinn Scorabhaig and since 1997 has been linked to Harris by the 300m (328 yard)-long Scalpay Bridge. The permanent population was 470 (1961), 483 (1971), 455 (1981), 382 (1991), 322 (2001) declining to just 291 in 2011. A lighthouse was erected in 1789 at Eilean Glas at the eastern end of the island. Scalpay Free Church dates from 1949. The Ministry of Defence operated a tracking station on the island for a time from the 1960s. A former haven for herring fishers, the island's economy is now centred on knitwear, prawn fishing and salmon farming. There is a modern harbour owned by the Western Isles Council. In 2001, First Minister Henry McLeish opened a fish-processing factory on the north coast, next to the former ferry slipway. However this venture lasted only four years and is now occupied by a fishing-net repair company. Scalpay benefits from a strong, although ageing, community. There are numerous substantial modern houses along the sheltered west coast and little sign of abandoned properties. Local people voted to take over the running of their island in 2012, after they were offered the land by the Scalpay's laird, who was an English businessman. A community-run shop and café opened the same year, although the island's primary school closed, due to declining pupil numbers.


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