Isle of Arran

The Isle of Arran lies off the west coast of Scotland in the Firth of Clyde. It is a 42,801[1]-hectare picturesque island often referred to as ‘Scotland in miniature’ due to the presence of the highland boundary fault and its geographical similarity to Scotland as a whole. The north end of the island is mountainous, combining deep glens with peaks rising to 874m[2] at the summit of Arran highest peak, Goat Fell. Apart from a small plantation at the far north east of the island, the north end is covered in heather moors and granite outcrops. The south end of the island is more ‘lowland like’, with rolling heather moors, widespread forestry and the best agricultural land on the island. The majority of the 5,045 population live in number if villages positioned on the coast of the island.

The Isle of Arran
Although the population is small Arran has a diverse economy. A few big landowners, such as the Forestry Commission, Dougarie Estate and Arran Estate, own much of the available land on the island but farming is still wide spread and remains integral to Arran life. A number of companies, such as Arran Aromatics, Arran Provisions and Arran Cheese Co., have used the Arran label to great effect and have increased their market by selling their products throughout Britain. A wide range of hotels, restaurants and guesthouses are available on Arran and provide work for both locals and seasonal staff. The island is one of the top tourist destinations in Scotland and is famed for its beauty and scenery. The economy of the island is heavily reliant on tourism and for this reason it is crucial that Arran retains its uniqueness.

However, the island must move with the times, Arran’s carbon footprint is higher than that of a similar population on the mainland. The daily lives of the local population have a far greater impact on the environment than those of their mainland counterparts due to the ferry journey that virtually all commodities must take. The isolation of the island and its associated transport costs mean that the island should be aiming to be as self sufficient as possible in every facet of live. This makes it the ideal location for this type of investigation, as it will potentially benefit the most from the findings.

The Isle of Arran
Although the island is remarkably self-contained and can offer most services it lacks self-sufficiency in key areas such as food production, electricity production and waste disposal. Arran’s ‘on island’ electricity production is minimal, limited to a single micro hydro power station[3] and a few small private wind turbines. The remainder of Arran’s power requirements are met by electricity imported from the mainland through underwater cables. The use of these six-kilometre long cables increases costs due to increased maintenance needs. The situation is little better in terms of waste disposal, six years ago the landfill site on Arran was closed after it was decided that it had reached its capacity. Despite a lengthy search it was concluded that there were no suitable sites on the island for a new landfill. Since this all waste from the island has been transported off the island by ferry to mainland sites. This not only costs the council, and therefore the taxpayer, it also results in an increase in Arran’s carbon footprint.

The island's unique blend of isolation, available biomasses and high transport cost makes the Isle of Arran the ideal case study for this type of investigation.

[1] General Register Office for Scotland;; 27th October 2009
[2] Ordnance Survey Map No. 361
[3] Renewable Energy Foundation: Monthly Generation Statistics;; 29th October 2009
Picture courtesy of Google Maps;