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.

2. Policy context

In 2014, the Scottish Government commissioned two significant reviews of legislation and policy in relation to land - the Land Reform Review and the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review. Their recommendations fed directly into the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 and the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

Community ownership[9] is at the heart of the Scottish Government's community empowerment agenda, and Principle 3 of the recently published Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement[10] states that more local communities should have the opportunity to own, lease or use buildings and land which can contribute to their community's wellbeing and future development.

The benefits of community land ownership are multiple. Research by Community Land Scotland shows that when communities buy their land, they can invest profits back into the community, work towards the reversal of population decline, and create jobs[11]. Moreover, people living on community owned land report that they feel more empowered in local decision-making and more connected with their local area.

At the end of June 2017, there were 562,230 acres of land estimated to be in community ownership in Scotland[12], which stands for 2.9% of the total land area. The majority of community owned land has been acquired in the form of whole estates, predominantly crofting estates, and forestry or woodland. The Scottish Government supports communities who have the ambition to take on ownership of land by providing funding schemes, grants, and policy advice.

To facilitate the progress of Land Reform, the Scottish Government established the SLC in 2017. In their work, SLC identified community engagement as one of their strategic priorities. The SLC is currently preparing Code of Practice guidelines for all landowners which is due to be published at the end of 2018.

This project aims to advance the understanding of the existing challenges and the potential for cooperation between Environmental NGOs and relevant community groups in this recent policy context. NGOs own and manage 2.6% of land in Scotland - only 0.3% less than all community groups put together. Considering their reach, influence, and expertise, Environmental NGOs can play an important role in facilitating and supporting community land ownership. Drawing on the research findings, the report outlines the main challenges and puts forward recommendations on how partnerships between the different stakeholders can be supported.


Email: Neil Davidson

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