Environment and Land Reform: relations between non-governmental organisations and community groups

The report examines relations between non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community groups in the light of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

Appendix 1.

Case study 1. Arkaig Community Forest (rural)

Establishing a collaborative ownership partnership

When in 2015 the Forest Enterprise Scotland under the National Forest Land Scheme gave the community in Loch Arkaig first refusal right to buy the woodlands, the community seized the opportunity. In the local community, there was a group of proactive and engaged members, who were passionate about community land ownership and sustainable development. Living in an area with high land concentration and shortages of land for community needs and development, the group identified this as a unique opportunity to own land.

At the same time, however, they recognised the huge logistical challenges that managing over 1000 hectares of woodlands presented to a small community. As one of the core members of the group explained: 'We realised we could not do this on our own with our capacity, its a small community of 50 and then a subgroup of 15, so we looked to bring someone in who could facilitate it and had the money and the expertise'.

Hence, the core members of the community group decided to approach different organisations with an aim to establish a collaborative partnership. Woodland Trust expressed interest to join and the project gathered momentum. The Loch Arkaig pinewoods are one of only 38 Caledonian Pinewood Inventory sites in Scotland and therefore opportunity to purchase the forest at a set price was extremely attractive for the Trust.

The two organisations came together and devised a memorandum of understanding to decide how they were going to work together. Signing the memorandum also secured an extension to the disposal and gave them time for fundraising. Woodland Trust ran a fundraising campaign, which turned out to be their most successful campaign to date: over 4,5 mln pounds were raised over a short period of time. The partnership with the community played an important role in the success of the campaign.

Today, the community owns land in two different parts of the forest, which are both favourable and with great potential for eco-tourism activities, educational trips, and other attractive business options. Under this agreement, Woodland Trust has 95% of the forest under legal ownership and ACF has 5%. However, the two parties signed a management lease agreement of the whole forest and agreed to manage it in collaboration. This means that whatever major decision the Woodland Trust wants to make about the forest, they need to consult with the community, and vice versa. An additional advisory board was created that oversees the partnership and the management decisions.

~ It is definitely difficult at times but it is well worth it, for the opportunities that are there. As I said, this is Scottish struggles, but it is worth it, I would say it is working here.~


Email: Neil Davidson

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