Scottish Borders communities must embrace 'land activism' to reclaim area, says charity official

People in the Scottish Borders need to start questioning who owns Scotland’s land and look to the community buy-outs in the Highlands and Islands, says a leading official of a charity promoting reclaiming of land.

Activists from the south of Scotland, Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway will meet in Langholm on 27 February to discuss local communities purchasing land and buildings.

Linsay Chalmers, development manager of the charity Community Land Scotland (CLS), said: “Quite a few communities in the Borders have bought buildings and some land, but people don’t tend to question the land issue.

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Saint Andrews Leckie Parish Church, PeeblesSaint Andrews Leckie Parish Church, Peebles
Saint Andrews Leckie Parish Church, Peebles

“Community ownership in the Highlands and islands have been able to turn around decades of depopulation and decline through the creation of jobs, affordable housing and revitalising cultural life.

“I grew up in the Borders, so I’m really keen to see communities in the south of Scotland take advantage of the benefits of community ownership.”

Community buy-outs

In Our Hands: Community Ownership in the South of Scotland is being organised by CLS and the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, with Scottish Government support.

Community buy-outs have historically been associated with places in the Highlands and islands such as Eigg, Gigha and Knoydart, but there have only been a small number in the south of Scotland. Research published by the government in December showed there are at least 50 community-owned buildings and land in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders.

Communities there own a range of assets, including community shops in New Galloway, Morebattle and Broughton; a community woodland in Eshiels; a town centre building in Dumfries; the harbour in Port Patrick and the Mull of Galloway.

However, the total land area in community ownership lags behind the Highlands and Islands. There is just 328 hectares in community ownership across the whole of Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders. This compares with more than 142,000 hectares in the Western Isles and over 60,000 acres in the Highland Council area.