How much land and property does the Church of Scotland own?

St Michael's Parish Church, Linlithgow. Picture: Michael Gillen/Johnston Press

St Michael's Parish Church, Linlithgow. Picture: Michael Gillen/Johnston Press

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It may be challenged by shrinking congregations but the Church of Scotland remains one of the country’s most significant land and property owners in the country.

The Kirk’s portfolio contains around 4,000 ecclesiastical buildings and 12,500 acres of glebe land - originally for the use of ministers- and has a capitalised value of around £515.8m.

One of the Kirk's availiable properties i the Iochdar Mission Church, South Uist. Offers over �50,000. Photo: Church of Scotland.

One of the Kirk's availiable properties i the Iochdar Mission Church, South Uist. Offers over �50,000. Photo: Church of Scotland.

This is up more than £10m on the year before.

The General Trustees, the church’s main property corporation, owns 1,366 churches, 201 separate halls and 842 manses and has the largest collection of Listed Buildings in Scotland.

It also owns a further 1,000 properties such as retirement homes for ministers, retreats and social care centres.

The Kirk described itself as a “substantial” landowner in a report to Scottish Government on land reform last year - and also a “unique” one given that it buildings directly benefit the communities it serves.

We manage one of the country’s largest property portfolios comprising over 5,000 properties

A Church of Scotland spokesman

The report said: “The Church...not only owns properties and land throughout the length and breadth of Scotland but the vast majority of landholdings are relatively small and there is already a direct local and community connection and benefit between the land and for the purpose for which it is used.”

READ MORE: How much land in Scotland is community owned?

Money raised from the sale of redundant properties goes to help congregations keep their existing churches and halls going.

Trustees get a 10 per cent levy on sale proceeds from church property, a portion of which is paid into the Central Fabric Fund which distributes grants and loans to churches in need of repair and improvement. These add up to around £3.7m a year.

The largest portion of sale proceeds go into the Consolidated Fabric Fund - worth some £49m - which is also used for improving old properties or building new ones.

A Kirk spokesman said Church properties were sold for a variety of reasons, such as following the merger of two churches or when an ageing manse was sold to make way for a more energy efficient home for a minister.

READ MORE: Kirk welcomes highest number of trainee ministers in five years

He said: “We manage one of the country’s largest property portfolios comprising over 5,000 properties.

“These include churches, manses, halls and houses as well as a large number of care services and a variety of other buildings.

“As a proportion of our property portfolio, the number on the market at any time is usually less than one percent.

“We have had an excess of church buildings since the 1920s.

“Properties can be selected for sale for a number of reasons. For example, selling an energy inefficient manse to buy a new energy efficient one. Some sales will be because congregations have united.

“The proceeds of sales are retained for the benefit of the local congregation and does not go into central funds.”

Figures show that in 2014, the church had 24 fewer churches than the year before, five fewer halls and 13 fewer manses on its books. Its holding of glebe land also went down by 14 acres.

The Kirk earned £1,01m from the sale of glebe land in 2014 - a figure boosted by a major deal with a residential developer. It also raised £406,000 from renting the land, mainly for agricultural use.

The Church is currently marketing six churches, including Castlemilk West Church in Glasgow.

The building has been put on the market for £280,000 after its congregation merged with Castlemilk East. It is being sold as development site after the Church secured permission to demolish B listed building due to its poor and redundant state.

Also for sale is the 19th Century Iochdar Mission Church on South Uist, which is on the market for £50,000. It has not been in full use since 2010, it is understood.

Meanwhile, the church is also marketing a six=bedroom semi-detached villa in Rubislaw Den South, Aberdeen - one of the city’s most prestigious streets - for £1.05m. It was formerly the manse attached to Rubislaw Church.

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said: “The process for purchasing a church building often takes longer than normal because of their unique nature and the time it takes for prospective purchasers try to sort out issues such as funding and planning permissions.

“Along with properties being sold, we also have had new churches open in various parts of the country.”

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