In June 2014 the then Minister for Environment and Climate Change announced that the Land Reform Review Group recommendation to set up a short life working group (SLWG) for the 1m acre target would be taken forward.
The 1 million acre SLWG commenced in March 2015, with remit of designing a strategy to deliver the 1m acre target by 2020, including an agreed action plan outlining how to implement the 1 million acre strategy. This will help shape the functions of a new dedicated community land ownership resource within the Scottish Government as per the 2014-15 Programme for Government commitment.
The SLWG has now concluded and has produced a final report containing recommendations and identified actions that make up a strategy that the group believe will have the biggest impact on increasing the amount of land in community ownership by 2020.
The report identifies a broad range of potential benefits that communities owning land or assets can achieve through local level control and democratic accountability. Community land ownership is part of the wider bottom-up, people centred approach where communities lead change for themselves and have more control over their destinies, as set out in the Regeneration Strategy and in the recently passed Community Empowerment Act.
The report has identified that there are currently around 480,000 acres of land in community ownership. This is the most up to date baseline figure. This equates to 2.5% of Scotland.
The SLWG identified seven major factors that are seen as the key barriers to achieving the target of 1 million acres of land in community ownership by 2020. These are:
- A need to stimulate demand for land through raising awareness
- A need to build the capacity of communities to take land ownership projects forward
- A need to support engagement with and within communities
- A need to improve access to support services
- A need to develop the network of support providers
- Address the availability of land
- Address barriers to the supply of land
The SLWG concludes that the Scottish Government and officials within the Community Land Team have a continuing vital role in providing leadership and strategic co-ordination to ensure the delivery of the 1m acre strategy in partnership with others.