New £10m community buy-out fund revealed as MSPs debate land reform
A £10 million annual fund to help communities buy the land they live and work on has been announced by the Scottish Government as the Land Reform Bill reaches its final stage of the parliamentary process.
Land reform minister Aileen McLeod announced that the new Scottish Land Fund, which has more than trebled from previous years, will open on April 1 and will continue until 2020.
The minister urged communities to consider whether owning the land they live and work on could mean it could offer greater benefit for local people.
The previous Land Fund awarded £9m over three years to 52 communities throughout Scotland. Of the 500,000 acres of land already in community ownership, over 90,000 acres was purchased with help from the Land Fund.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill, which will create a register of people in control of land in Scotland, has been heavily amended while passing through Holyrood.
Speaking ahead of stage three of the Bill, Dr McLeod said: “Land is one of Scotland’s most valuable assets and owning land can help communities realise their aspirations and dreams, make a real difference to long term sustainability and build stronger, resilient and supportive communities.
“Each community has its own set of reasons for wanting to take on the ownership of land. The important thing is that communities are able to make the right choice for them in order to meet local needs and further sustainable development in their local area. This is why we have restructured the fund to ensure support is available to communities from the idea stages right through to project development. I want to spread the word about the benefits that can be achieved through community ownership of land and encourage both urban and rural communities to apply to the Scottish Land Fund.
“With the launch of the Land Fund and stage three of the Land Reform Bill later today, we are seeing a new dawn for community ownership in Scotland – the Bill will allow more communities than ever the opportunity to be involved in decisions about land that affect them. This Bill has been significantly strengthened since it was introduced last year following discussions with the Parliament and the public. I look forward to today’s debate, when the Parliament will discuss final amendments including the creation of a public register of who controls land in Scotland.”
Ailsa Raeburn, head of community assets at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), said: “The launch of the new Scottish Land Fund will help more local groups across Scotland own and develop land and buildings that are important to them.
“Over the last 50 years, HIE has been a leader in community development across the Highlands and Islands and beyond. We have helped hundreds of groups develop thriving and sustainable projects that have helped contribute to building healthy, flourishing communities. We are very much looking forward to working with the Scottish Government and the Big Lottery Fund in this next round which will see the fund extended to urban areas for the first time. It will be exciting to see these all of these new ideas come to life.”
Jackie Killeen, director of Big Lottery Fund Scotland, added: “Owning and developing community assets recognises the strength of people who are at the heart of all communities – those who live and work in a place. Here at the Big Lottery Fund we have been supporting groups in urban and rural Scotland through the Scottish Land Fund and our Lottery funded community assets programme since 2006. We know and understand the difference that community ownership is having across the country and we look forward to supporting more communities and people to make the right decision for them - delivering social, environmental and economic benefits for generations to come.”