Case study

Isle of Skye Ferry

A CIC set up to safeguard an economic lifeline.

The village of Glenelg, tucked away in the north west reaches of the Scottish mainland, enjoys a beautiful but incredibly remote coastal setting.

“It’s a 30-mile round trip just to get petrol out here,” says Dr Jennifer Frances, founding director of Isle of Skye Ferry Community Interest Company. “Without the ferry, we would be a dead end.”

This boat crossing from Glenelg to Kylerhea on the Isle of Skye has run for almost four centuries. It has long been an economic lifeline for communities on both sides of the water. But in recent years, its future has looked far from certain.

The long-time owner of the Isle of Skye ferry was looking to sell the boat and retire. Without a new buyer, the remote communities of Glenelg (population 240) and Kylerhea (population 17) would be in jeopardy. In early 2006, a steering group made up of residents created the Isle of Skye Ferry Community Interest Company. The structure was chosen due to its flexibility. “We see ourselves as a social enterprise and felt that a CIC would allow us to be entrepreneurial and move quickly,” says Dr Frances. “But it would still allow us to apply for funding.”

This was crucial to get the project off the ground. The ferry is the last manually-operated turntable ferry in the world – the deck rotates to enable cars to drive on and off. It also costs a minimum of £15,000 a year to maintain.

After initially leasing the ferry from the owner, a £60,000 grant secured from the Big Lottery Fund’s Growing Community Assets scheme, and another £60,000 from Highlands & Islands Enterprise, allowed the CIC to buy the boat outright.

Much of the company’s income today comes from ticket sales. Travellers are only charged for a single journey (£12). But there are reductions for local residents, and bigger discounts for local pensioners. Any profits are put back into the business. Dr Frances says the CIC needs approximately £30,000 annual surplus to cover costs. Last year, it finished £30,000 in credit.

A new advertising push targeted at bed and breakfast visitors will see Isle of Skye Ferry CIC brochures appear in 42,000 bedrooms up the west coast of Scotland. The aim is to encourage 3,000 more car drivers a year to take the crossing.

Name Isle of Skye Ferry
Location Glenelg, Scotland
Company structure CIC limited by guarantee
Founded 22 February 2006
Community interest statement To run the Isle of Skye ferry in the interest of the community.

Find out more about Isle of Skye Ferry

Published 12 November 2013