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February 13, 2008

Evaluation of Scottish Land Fund

From 2002 to 2006, the Big Lottery Fund commissioned an evaluation of the operation of the Scottish Land Fund. The report’s key finding is straightforward: handing real powers to local communities can rapidly improve an area’s social and economic performance


Project: Scottish Land Fund (SLF).

Period of evaluation: 2002 to 2006.

Evaluating organisations: SQW and Land Use Consultants (LUC).

Evaluation commissioned by: The Big Lottery Fund.

Aims and outline of the project: The SLF made a total of £15 million available to fund the transfer of land and land assets to community ownership in disadvantaged rural areas of Scotland. The fund aimed to: improve opportunities for local people; encourage community involvement and participation; enhance environmental diversity and quality; and broaden land ownership. Funding was available for acquisition, technical assistance and development. A total of 251 grants were awarded to 188 community groups.

Annette Pearson writes: This report’s key finding is straightforward: handing real powers to local communities can rapidly improve an area’s social and economic performance.

When assets were transferred into community control, disadvantaged rural communities felt empowered and motivated, the evaluation finds. This enabled the development of social capital, boosted cohesion, and helped strengthen communities through improved communication and a shared sense of purpose. Of all of the projects funded, the evaluation notes that only one “failed”: a very high success rate.

The evaluation makes it clear that development funding is critical if assets are to be utilised with any haste. Relying on voluntary effort will often result in a project making very slow progress, and thus any impact will generally only be achieved over a considerable period of time. Development funding is also crucial in providing a reliable source of income in the period before communities can begin to yield dependable revenue from their newly-acquired assets. The transition from grant funding to self-sufficiency needs to be carefully planned for, the evaluation found.

The evaluation also concludes that engaging schools in projects can be beneficial to both children and the project itself; and that the transfer of assets to a community tends to provoke a growth in membership of community groups. Where there was a major transfer of land – such as in North Harris and Gigha – there was equivalent, major growth in community spirit and social cohesion.

– Annette Pearson is a senior regeneration manager at the Black Country Consortium.
– Evaluation of the Scottish Land Fund is available via