A MAJOR conference for public sector organisations and communities all over southern Scotland focused on the future of community ownership, including in Eskdale and Liddesdale.
In our Hands: Community Ownership in the south of
Scotland was run by Community Land Scotland (CLS) with the South of Scotland Economic Partnership and supported by the Scottish government.
Among the groups attending were the Langholm Initiative, which has plans to buy several thousand acres of Langholm Moor, and the Newcastleton and District Community Trust, which is bidding to buy 750 acres on Holm Hill.
Ian Hepburn is the chairman of CLS which was set up in 2010 with 17 members. It now has more than 90.
There are currently 50 assets either in community ownership or identified by aspiring community owners in southern
Lorne MacLeod is land commissioner at the Scottish Land Commission.
He told delegates: “Land is so important: how it’s owned, managed and used and for its social and economic development.”
The commission was set up on the back of the Land Reform Act in 2016 to advocate a modern system for modern ownership and drive land reform.
He added: “We investigate, gather evidence, do research and make recommendations to the government and other public bodies.
“It’s important that community buy-outs are a means to further growth in terms of housing, jobs, business set-ups and population growth and retention. We need to normalise community ownership.
“The target was to have one million acres by 2020 and we’re at 600,000. They don’t have to be large geographically; recent buy-outs are quite small but are equally important to the communities they serve.”
He said CLS had recommended to government that the community buy-out process be simplified.
It was looking at land owned by charities and trusts which never came on to the market but where there could be greater community involvement.
The Scottish parliament had also passed a law relating to landowners having not only rights but also responsibilities for the land they owned.
Mr MacLeod said they had examined the scale and concentration of land ownership. There was not so much of an issue on the scale of it but there was on the concentration in parts of the country.
He said: “Power and control can negatively affect economic and social development in some communities.