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February 22, 2012

Community land owners – the new radicals

Not so very long ago, consensus across the community sector was that Scottish Government had lost interest in land reform.  The long promised review of the legislation had failed to materialise and the momentum behind the community buy-outs had stalled – largely because there were no funds to support them.  How quickly things change. A new Scottish Land Fund has just been announced, a Land Reform Review Group is being assembled and community land owners have been chosen by NESTA as one of the country’s 50 new radicals.


Community Land Scotland has warmly welcomed the announcement that £6 million is to be available for the next generation of community land buy-outs.

Speaking after the announcement by Environment and Climate Change Minister, Stewart Stevenson MSP, David Cameron, Chairman of Community Land Scotland, the representative body for Scotland’s community land owners, said,

“This is first rate news. With this new land fund comes new opportunity for more communities to share in the benefits of taking control of the land on which they live and work. Already a new confidence has been growing within the communities which have taken control, new economic opportunities are being created, once dying communities are reviving and growing. It is simply great that more communities will now be able to get support to take the opportunity of owning their own land and future.”

David Cameron was speaking following the announcement made at the 5th anniversary celebrations of the last major buyout at Galson, on the island of Lewis.

Community Land Scotland, established only a year ago, has been campaigning for a new land fund and wider policy changes to promote more community ownership. David Cameron said,

“A year ago there was a sense that the momentum had gone out of the movement toward more communities taking over their land, following rapid progress in the early part of the new century. We are pleased the Scottish Government has taken action to ensure that momentum can be regained and I look forward to the new fund being heavily subscribed and used in the years to come, and I hope that, as in the first Land Fund, if demand is sufficient, the fund will be increased to meet that demand.”

Community Land Scotland particularly welcomed the involvement of Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the arrangements to administer the new fund, alongside the Big Lottery. David Cameron said,

“HIE have been the key agency in making things happen in the purchase of land in the past. They understand how communities work and the kind of support they need to progress and we are delighted they are again to have a central role, this can only be for the good and increase the prospects of communities making real progress.

”What we now need is active promotion of the fund to communities who can aspire to a better future, through their ownership and active management of the land they occupy, bringing new investment and the promoting new opportunities.”

The Land Fund announcement comes only hours after community land owners in Scotland were announced as one of “Britain’s New Radicals” in a national scheme recognising, people and organisations leading innovative solutions to established economic and social problems.

Welcoming the recognition by NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) and the Observer newspaper, David Cameron, Chairman of Community Land Scotland said,

“We are delighted to receive this recognition and for community land owners to take their place among others who are innovating and leading the way to find new ways to tackle long standing problems.

“Communities in Scotland now control some 500,000 acres of land and are turning round the fortunes of those communities, bringing hope of a better future where once there was despair and decline. New investment is being won for those communities, new opportunities created, and the means to a better future secured.

“What we do is a break from the past, it is radical, and it involves not just inspired individuals, but inspired communities. This recognition is for all those involved in the community land owning sector.”

Professor Jim Hunter, who nominated the community land sector for the Britain’s New Radicals award, said: ‘In the last 20 years, people in the Highlands and Islands have taken into community ownership an area equivalent to that of an English county like Nottinghamshire or West Yorkshire.  That’s remarkable enough. What’s still more remarkable is the way those same people have done things – like reversing population loss and growing long shrinking economies – once thought impossible. This award, I hope, will make these achievements better known – and maybe help persuade other communities in Scotland and beyond to take charge of their destinies in this way.’