Plans for 1 million acres of community land unveiled

Landowners and local authorities to be encouraged to lower barriers. Picture: Gareth Easton

Landowners and local authorities to be encouraged to lower barriers. Picture: Gareth Easton

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An action plan has been published for achieving Alex Salmond’s ambitious target of one million acres of land in community ownership by 2020.

The report by the one million acre short life working group recommends a number of proposals to reach the target such as stimulating demand for community owned land through raised awareness, improving access to support services, and addressing issues around the availability of land and barriers to the supply of land.

Local authorities and private landowners are to be encouraged and supported to help broker deals that are “mutually beneficial” to all parties.

The then-First Minister Mr Salmond set a target for community land in Scotland to double through improvements to the right-to-buy scheme in 2013.

There are currently more than 500,000 community owned acres in Scotland – this equates to 2.5 per cent of land. The half a million mark was passed earlier this month following the acquisition of land by the Pairc Trust in Lewis after 13 years of campaigning.

It extends to over 28,000 acres, with 11 crofting townships and an extensive coastline.

Its £500,000 purchase was finally made on the basis of a voluntary transfer by the landlord, Barry Lomas, of Leamington Spa.

This was Scotland’s first test of a hostile land buyout under the controversial Land Reform Act.

Community Land Scotland chair Lorne MacLeod has welcomed the publication of the one million acre report. He said: “We see this as very positive. The target will be tough to achieve by 2020 but great strides can be taken.

“There is growing interest throughout Scotland as regards community buyouts, especially in the south of Scotland, and this action plan will go a long way to helping these communities.”

The minister for environment, climate change and land reform, Aileen McLeod, said: “This ambitious target has the potential to transform the fortunes of communities across the country.

“I would like to thank the group for all their hard work and I look forward to considering the recommendations in this report alongside current land reform legislation to help ensure we empower communities with practical powers as well as support sustainability.”

Earlier this month MSPs on the rural affairs, climate change and environment committee insisted the Land Reform Bill “must be enhanced and strengthened if it is to achieve its aims”.

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