Wanlockhead Community Trust has held preliminary discussions regarding a community buyout
A COMMUNITY trust in the village of Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway, is in discussions to purchase land in and around the village from the Duke of Buccleuch, according to The Herald.
It is said that they wish to do so in order to instigate a regeneration of the area and provide more opportunities for development of leisure and tourism facilities for the village. Other organisations and individuals have also been in talks with the Duke of Buccleuch’s estate with a view to purchasing the land and achieving redevelopment for similar purposes.
The Community Trust will hold a vote on whether to proceed with the buyout next year, which would be the most high profile instance of such a move in Scotland.
Community buyouts such as these are what land reform campaigners have been demanding in order to allow rural and disused land throughout Scotland to be used for the benefit of the community as a whole rather than to remain in the hands of a few individuals and inevitably become neglected.
This will be highlighted at the Our Land festival 2016, which is taking place throughout August and September. Recent legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament, such as the Community Empowerment Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill 2016 which increases the rights of communities to participate in local government decision-making, has seen progress made on the issue.
“Community buyouts are the best of a bad job” – Lesley Riddoch, Journalist
Lesley Riddoch, a journalist who is involved with Our Land 2016, said: “Community buyouts are the best of a bad job and land is still very scarce and expensive.” She went on to note that when one community opts out of the present system of land ownership it simply leaves all other communities behind and highlights the system’s unfairness, lamenting the lack of restrictions on the amount of land that any one individual can own.
She also called for the Duke of Buccleuch to sell the land to the community trust for a low price and said that she would welcome him donating it to the community.
Riddoch has previously written in her column for the Scotsman that if the Wanlockhead Community Trust was to acquire ownership of the land then reforestation, tourism and community-owned energy would become permanent features of the local economy. She also highlighted that with the land currently part of the Duke’s estate, any repairs or maintenance to bridges or paths can often be left unaddressed for lengthy periods of time due to disputes over who actually owns the land and reluctance to take responsibility for resolving such issues.
Our Land 2016 are still pressing for land reform to go further than the most recent legislation. At present, around half of private land in Scotland is owned by 432 people. The Our Land festival has set five targets for the next phase of land reform:
· Transparency – public knowledge of who owns land
· Productivity – policy to encourage productive use of land
· Affordability – tax being used to make land more affordable
· Availability – a greater number of people should have the chance to buy land
· Accountability – public land should be used for the public good
Mark McNaught, an American academic, used the recent launch of the Demos Scotland think tank in Glasgow to call for an independent Scotland’s constitution to enshrine land reform. He highlighted the fact that much of the private land in Scotland is owned by offshore companies, and that there is a need for quicker, more robust, permanent land registration to ensure a fairer system.
Picture courtesy of Gary McNair
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