Caithness broch project is an example of community-led activism at its finest

Before we begin, I would like to make it clear that I have not received any of the near-legendary “Brocholates” sent out to journalists and trendsetters by the Caithness Broch Project, and therefore any sentiments expressed are entirely my own, uninfluenced by heritage-based confectionery.

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First published in The National, 6 September 2016

Instead, I was won over by the informal presentation Kenneth McElroy delivered in a café one afternoon, setting out the Caithness Broch Project’s vision for a major cultural boost for the Highlands, all centred around a life-size working broch. 

By running a living history visitor attraction, complete with drystone dyking workshops, archaeological tours, and school outreach programmes, the Caithness Broch Project would be creating jobs in the tourism and culture sectors.

It’s a model example of a community-led activism – and funnily enough, our meeting was in the café at the Pulteney Centre in Wick, a town hub that only exists because local people decided to form a project, pursue the funding, and make it happen. Keep doing what you’re doing, Caithness! 

Scotland needs more of this community-led activism. First of all, there’s the idea – in this case, using a unique part of Scotland’s cultural heritage and working out how to use it to bring jobs and pride to the area. 

Then comes the tricky part – chasing funding. 

The funding is out there, but you’ve got to be stubborn and persistent and have a clear aim in mind. So municipal Scotland needs to empower communities, firstly by helping them to identify their needs, and then by supporting in their funding applications. 

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Caithness knows that the winding-down of Dounreay is leaving the area in urgent need of employment diversification. So it’s great to see the Caithness Broch Project has identified a niche, got their wheels in motion, and is clearly well on its way to becoming a flagship project for other innovative, community-led enterprises.

Alyn Smyth is SNP member of the European Parliament