WHAT does it take to build a sustainable community? According to residents of one west coast island, opportunities for business are part of the answer.

And it’s hoped that a £500,000 project will buy new growth well into the future.

Scenic Colonsay, near Mull, is home to around 135 people and known as much for its wild westerly location – there’s only a lighthouse standing between it and Canada – as its beauty.

Served by ferry from Oban and, in the summer, from Islay, it’s amongst the smallest Hebridean isles to boast a resident population, and the Colonsay Community Development Company (CCDC) is working to keep it that way, looking at what’s needed for islanders to thrive there amidst challenges caused by its location and limited facilities.

The population has shrunk over the last century and CCDC says there’s an urgent need to bring in and keep more working-age people.

Fewer than 30 are under the age of 50, and fewer than 10 are aged 18-30. A crowdfunder to aid the development of further social housing successfully raised more than £30,000 earlier this year. When that was launched in April, CCDC said the community was “at breaking point”.

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Now a £500,000 drive by the 21-year-old charity to develop new avenues for business in Scalasaig has taken a step forwards thanks to a £145,000 funding commitment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Caroline Seymour, project co-ordinator with CCDC, said: “We have reached the point where we can now see real progress on the ground as we work towards a sustainable community and economy for the people of Colonsay.”

The project aims to develop two new business units in the island’s main settlement and only port.

It’s a response to demand for new opportunities, and the units, designed with energy efficiency in mind, will allow new firms to “establish a presence” there or enable existing local operations to expand. Construction is expected to generate 10 jobs, with another eight created in the longer term when the units are leased.

They’re to be built on land purchased by CCDC with support from the Scottish Land Fund and HIE and will be capable of carrying loaded vehicles.

Seymore said: “The new commercial units will be providing fresh opportunities for businesses that we have not seen here for many years.”

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Morag Goodfellow, HIE area manager for Argyll and the Islands, said: “Like many of our rural areas and island communities, there are both challenges and opportunities on Colonsay.

“We have been working with CCDC for many years, supporting their work in strengthening community resilience on the island.

“I am very pleased we have been able to support this latest initiative and look forward to seeing the new workshops play a key role in supporting economic activity on the island.”