Community land ownership '˜is not an end in itself'

Community ownership should become a 'normal and realistic' option for local people in areas across Scotland, an official report has found.

The Isle of Eigg, subject of a community buyout in 1997. Picture: Getty

But there should be a recognition that community ownership is not an end in itself – but a means to delivering wider benefits, according to the Scottish Land Commission report prepared for the Scottish Government.

Acquisitions of land should also not be driven emerging problems or a reaction to land coming on to the market, but instead be “planned and proactive”, according to the report.

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Right to buy across Scotland has developed significantly over the last 20 years and community ownership is now seen as “integral to regeneration and sustainable development” in rural and urban areas, Scottish Land Commissioner Lorne MacLeod said.

He added: “It should be seen as normal and routine, as it is internationally, for a community to acquire and own land that could provide local housing, business development, community facilities, recreation facilities, greenspace, as a fundamental way to create more vibrant communities and regional economies.”

The report published yesterday also calls for community land and asset ownership to be embedded in local planning, as well as for support for acquisitions to be provided across all of Scotland.

Longer-term sources of financial support should also be looked at after buy-outs take place to help new local community owners. Land reform secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “It has been great to see such an increase in community ownership in recent years, thanks to the success of some amazing local groups working with the Scottish Government. This is unlocking potential in our urban, rural and island communities and giving local people a say in their future, and I hope to see many more communities getting involved in the years ahead.”

Sarah Jane Laing, executive director at Scottish Land & Estates, said “Community ownership of land and property can deliver positive outcomes for rural areas and forms an important part of the mix of ownership that is necessary to help communities thrive.”

She added: “We firmly believe that community ownership is more likely to be successful where there are constructive discussions and negotiated sales and those with an interest work together to achieve a shared vision.”