RESIDENTS of Scotland’s highest village will go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether or not to buy almost 4000 acres from one of Scotland’s biggest landowners.

The Duke of Buccleuch has said he will sell 3860 acres of his Queensberry Estate to the Dumfries and Galloway community of Wanlockhead.

The offer is expected to come with a price tag of around £1.4 million.

Tomorrow residents of the former mining village will vote on whether or not they want to proceed with a major buyout that could transform the area.

Plans drawn up by the Wanlockhead Community Trust suggest a “yes” vote could lead to the creation of new campsites and festivals to boost the economy, as well as increased gold panning activity, heritage tourism and outdoor activities. Leaders hope “voluntourism” will draw in people interested in “wildlife, nature, reforestation, countryside access and environmental management”.

The proposals were published in June and, if locals back change, the Trust hopes the Scottish Land Fund will provide most of the money it needs. That application will have to be in by August.

READ MORE: Buccleuch land buyout village’s vision revealed in new study

Trust chair Lincoln Richford is “quietly confident, but not over-confident”, that voters will agree that they “would like Wanlockhead to own the 3863 acres of land around the village that Buccleuch has offered to the community”.

That’s how the question will appear on the paper in a vote unlike any the community has seen.

Permanent residents aged 16 and over can take part but must take their own pens along to the community centre to cut down on the Covid-19 transmission risk. All must wear facial coverings and only one person will be admitted at a time. Test and trace procedures will be in place and the venue will be deep cleaned before the poll opens at 10am.

While the buyout bid has been five years in the making, Richford says the coronavirus has made the last few months of the process challenging, with in-person meetings unable to take place. The Trust is still trying to combat “misinformation” around its plans, but says many of those with the wrong ideas aren’t residents and so won’t get a say.

“We’ve tried to keep the village informed,” he said, “We have had to use Facebook and there’s a lot of discussion going on there, but most of the discussion is done by a few voices and they aren’t eligible to vote.

“This is a really special chance for Wanlockhead. We are hoping to be a leader for the south of Scotland. The potential is massive. It’s not just for now, it’s for the future.”

In a joint message, South of Scotland MSPs Oliver Mundell, Joan McAlpine and Claudia Beamish told villagers: “Wanlockhead is one of the very first communities in the south of Scotland to have the opportunity to own your land, but many others will follow after you over the years to come.

“You now have a chance to have a say about your future as a community.”