The Small Isles Today

Main industries – the main industries on each of the islands are tourism and farming or crofting.  Many islanders have two or more jobs; so as well as keeping livestock, a smallholder might also work in the school or tearoom.

Regional, Local & Island Governance – The Small Isles is part of the Highland Council and is subject to the same laws and regulations as other parts of the Highland Council area. The Small Isles Community Council represents the island group in matters which affect all islands collectively e.g. ferries.  Each of the four islands is owned and managed differently; Eigg is owned by a community trust, Rum by a community trust and Scottish Natural Heritage, Cana by the National Trust for Scotland, while the Isle of Muck is owned privately.  Each island has its own residents or community association which looks after day to day matters related to that island specifically.

Broadband – all of the islands have very good broadband connections (up to 10MB), provided by community owned Hebnet.  This means that some islanders work ‘remotely’ for companies or organisations on the mainland or futher afield.

Schooling – There is a primary school on each of the islands.  Eigg has 11 children in the primary school and 2 in the nursery, while Muck has seven in the school.  Rum and Canna schools are closed at the moment, but will reopen when children there reach primary school age.  Secondary education is provided at Mallaig High School on the mainland, with children living in the school hostel and returning home for the weekend, fortnightly.

Electricity – None of the four islands are connected to the mains grid and so each island has had to find its own solution to generating electricity.  Eigg has its own renewably powered electricity company (Eigg Electric) which uses the wind, sun and hydro to generate enough power for all its residents.  Rum and Muck are in the process of setting up something very similar; in Muck based around wind and solar, in Rum around hydro.  The Isle of Canna is currently powered by diesel generator, but in the long term wants to convert to renewable generation.

Housing – Finding somewhere to live on the Small Isles can sometimes be difficult.

Water – None of the Small Isles are on mains water or sewage.  Each home or business is provided water from a local spring.  Sewage is managed using a small treatment plant or septic tank at each property.

Telephone signal – The Small Isles is served by the Mallaig telephone exchange, with the telephone signal being relayed across the water by radio link.  Mobile phone signal on all of the islands is very patchy.

Rubbish – The Highland Council work with islanders to recycle as much of the waste as possible.   Paper, glass, tin and some plastics are recycled and many islanders have their own composting systems.  Anything that can’t be recycled or composted is taken off to landfill in a skip.

Roads & Transport – There is no public transport on any of the islands, although some islands have a private mini-bus or taxi service operating in the summer months.  Some of the roads in the Small Isles are owned and maintained by the Highland Council, others by the island owners themselves.  Visitors to the Small Isles are not permitted to bring their car onto the islands.

Doctor – the Small Isles Medical Practice is based on the Isle of Eigg, with the doctor making regular visits to the other islands by speed boat.

Dentist – The Highland Council provides a travelling dental service to the Isle of Eigg.  Otherwise, islanders have to travel to Fort William to visit the dentist.

Library – each island has a small library collection, provided by the Highland Council.  Books, DVDs and other materials are changed on a semi-regular basis.

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