More than 1000 people have joined the fight for survival of the Castlebay community shop, Bùth Bharraigh which faces demolition as part of a regeneration scheme created by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
Local MSP Alasdair Allan said: “I have raised this issue with the council and very much hope a mutually agreeable solution can be found.  It is in the best interests of staff, customers and the many local producers who supply the shop that this enterprise continues to flourish.”
Local MP Angus B MacNeil said: “I have been contacted by Bùth Bharraigh who are concerned about plans to demolish the former Co-operative building from which they operate.
“As a result of the concerns raised, I have written to the Comhairle to ask them to work with the community to ensure the long term future of Bùth Bharraigh which is a very successful social enterprise.
“Bùth Bharraigh provides local employment and also supports island suppliers and is an asset to the Isle of Barra.  I have asked the Comhairle for details of the plans for the former co-operative building and have also asked that the concerns expressed are addressed.
“Bùth Bharraigh must have premises from which they can continue this successful venture.”
The Bùth Bharraigh premises were formerly those of the Scottish Co-op which were bought by CnES after the new Co-op store opened in Castlebay.  CnES has claimed Bùth Bharraigh knew the premises were going to be demolished from the start – however, emails from 2013 when Bùth Bharraigh set up the shop, show that there was discussion of five, ten and 20 year leases but no mention of demolition.
A Bùth Bharraigh statement says: “Initially, when we applied for the Old Co-op Building we had no idea that it was earmarked to be demolished.  CnES promised us a custom-built building for the shop and indeed even that we could have input into the design process. 
In January 2015, CnES confirmed that this was not in fact the case and we would have to apply for a unit [on the industrial estate] and the old co-op would be demolished. 
“We are aware of the demand for business units on the island, that there is a need for businesses to be located at the historic centre of Castlebay and that there is a need for activities and services for visitors to the island.  By staying in the Old Co-op building we will not create even more demand for business units, we are supporting the historic centre of Castlebay and providing services and activities for tourists. 
“We conducted a survey in Aug/Sep 2015 to ascertain, now that the building was being occupied and a hub of activity, whether public feeling had changed and whether we could now stay in this location. 
“We received 222 responses online and through the [local newspaper] Guth Bharraidh and 82% supported us remaining in the Old Co-op Building.  CnES and Castlebay Community Council (CCC) have been sent copies of the survey results but have not acted on it. 
“Since October 2015, Bùth Bharraigh Ltd believed we had been working with CnES to remove the Old Co-op Building from the demolition list so that we would have a secure future.  This would enable us to continue to develop and provide security for both our producers and employees.  As part of this process we were asked to obtain a letter of support from CCC and CnES were going to contact the Scottish Government Regeneration Department to see if the grant funding could be changed.  We invited members of CCC to the Bùth and also offered to make a presentation at the meeting.  However, we were not invited or made aware that the meeting was taking place. 
“It is extremely unfortunate that CCC choose to support a decision to demolish the Old Co-op without having all the necessary information to make an informed decision or carry out any consultation with the general public.  And also it seems that CnES did not contact the Scottish Government. 
“It is also unfortunate that CCC then decided to put an article on the front page of Guth Bharraidh without informing us or giving us any chance of reply.  We did ask CCC not to send the letter to CnES without first having an advertised meeting on the subject and a chance to get all the necessary information so that an informed decision could be reached.  However this request was ignored. 
“We have been left with no choice but to carry on and campaign for a secure future for Bùth Bharraigh.  There are too many people now relying on us: employees, local shoppers, producers, crofters and visitors. 
“Since our first survey has not been taken into consideration we are now undertaking a petition.  We have over 1000 supporters between the online and paper copies. 
“We are so appreciative of all the support and messages we have been receiving from local people and from people all over the world.  If you would like to sign then please do so online or in the Bùth.  We really do hope that a resolution can be reached soon.