We didn’t expect to be saying ‘Point and Sandwick are delighted…’ again, so soon after winning the Scottish Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year Award.
Yet here we are – delighted, again, and on another high after winning the title of UK Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year at the UK Social Enterprise Awards last night (Wed, Nov 28).
Community wind farm developer Calum MacDonald picked up the award on Point and Sandwick Trust’s behalf at the glittering event in the beautiful Guildhall in London and admitted he was “very surprised” but “delighted” to have won.
It is Point and Sandwick Trust’s second award this month, our third this year, and our fourth so far.
We were automatically shortlisted for the UK Environmental Social Enterprise Award after winning in that category at the Scottish Social Enterprise Awards, held in the Scottish Parliament on November 6.
These awards recognises the innovation and success of Point and Sandwick Trust in operating a commercial business for social good. And the economic power of social enterprise was made clear at the awards with the revelation that social enterprise companies in Britain pay more tax than Amazon, Google and Facebook combined.
The Environmental Social Enterprise award was the first category to be announced and Calum admitted he was “very surprised” to hear Point and Sandwick Trust’s name called out.
But he added: “I’m delighted. Really delighted. It’s a great testament that the achievements of Point and Sandwick Trust are being recognised across the UK now.
“I think it’s a great encouragement for all these other communities that want to develop their own community wind farm schemes. Also, it’s a recognition of the achievements of all the community-owned companies in the Western Isles. We have the biggest community-owned scheme in the whole of Britain and it’s just so sad that the council and others do not recognise the strength of these community schemes from Barra up to Ness.”
The Point and Sandwick organisation runs the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm near Stornoway with the sole aim of ploughing all the profits back into the community and had also been shortlisted in the category of Social Enterprise of the Year.
This month’s two awards from the social enterprise sector follow previous ones from the renewables and charities sectors.
Beinn Ghrideag is the largest community-owned wind farm in the UK in terms of output, with its three turbines generating a total of 9MW, and in 2015 it was named ‘Best Community Project’ at the Scottish Green Energy Awards.
Then, in June this year, Point and Sandwick Trust won the the ‘Celebrating Communities’ trophy at the Scottish Charity Awards.
The fact that last night’s awards ceremony was held in the beautiful Guildhall had extra meaning, too – as it was here that Calum MacDonald had secured the finance to build Beinn Ghrideag.
He was attending a charity dinner with Angus Maclennan from Shawbost, a senior figure in the city, and told him of the problems they were having with financing the wind farm.
At the time, their lender was Coop Bank but they had run into difficulties and the market for this kind of socially-owned renewables project was not yet developed.
But “Angus knew the chair of Santander and put us in touch and hey presto!” That led to Santander lending Point and Sandwick £13million to build Beinn Ghrideag.
“It’s terrific,” said Calum. “The circle is completed. I only wish Angus was here as well. If I knew we were going to win, I’d have brought him along!”
Angus Maclennan, did, however, have some hearty congratulations for them after hearing the news. “That’s quite amazing. I’m really sorry that I’m not in London to help him have a wee dram to celebrate. I’m really pleased for them. That’s great.”
Calum has said that recognition from the social enterprise sector is particularly valuable “because socially-owned turbines deliver 20 times more economic benefit into the local area as compared to conventionally-owned turbines…
“That’s why, in countries like Denmark, half the turbines are socially owned in one form or another. They recognise the huge benefits this delivers into local areas.
“People talk about big projects and small projects but, in terms of economic impact, the community projects are the big projects – by far.”