June 28, 2022
South of Scotland takes off
It’s sometimes difficult to shift perceptions. The phrase ‘community landowner’ has long been associated in most people’s minds with the highlands and islands of Scotland. But times are changing as a new report from Community Land Scotland demonstrates. Nothing travels faster than good news and especially when it’s on your doorstep and so it’s no surprise to learn that so many South of Scotland communities are fast acquiring the taste for ownership. And with the news that Community Land Week is back (Oct 8th – 16th) we can expect many more to follow.
The past five years have seen the South of Scotland become one of the fastest growing areas for community landownership. Back in 2016, Community Land Scotland held its first events in the South of Scotland. Turnout was high – the room was so packed at an event we held in Newton Stewart that people struggled to make their way past other attendees to get to the tea and coffee station during the break.
The main subjects that everyone wanted to talk about were depopulation and the decline of the area’s market towns. Coincidentally, both of Community Land Scotland’s two staff at the time hailed from the South of Scotland and were really keen to see communities in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway experience the same benefits that community landownership had delivered in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
Since 2016, the South of Scotland has been a priority area for Community Land Scotland and in 2017, two Directors from the South of Scotland joined our Board. No one could have imagined the growth in community ownership that was to come – that the South would lead the way on community led regeneration of town centres or that one of the largest landowners in Scotland, Buccleuch Estates would take a proactive approach to selling land to communities.
We are starting to see some really positive outcomes from these community acquisitions and there is much more to come. Between 2018 and 2020 alone, community owned assets in the South grew by 25%.
At Community Land Scotland, we can see the transformational change created by community landowners, from reversing depopulation to building community confidence and resilience. However, this all requires support from agencies and local authorities working in partnership with local people to make better places.
Communities have ambition, tenacity and skills, but they can’t make the changes the South of Scotland needs to see, on their own. The rapid growth of community landownership and the impact that it is already having on communities in the South of Scotland is a cause for celebration, so we are delighted to publish this report “ In Our Hands:Community Ownership in the South of Scotland.”