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.

3. Methods

The objective of the research was to understand how people in community groups and environmental NGOs conceptualise how collaborations and partnerships should be structured and conducted. The essence of this research revolved around people's opinions and first-hand knowledge and experience. This type of data is difficult to capture in a quantitative research approach, which relies on structured responses gleaned mostly from surveys. Qualitative methods allow for building trust and personal connections, which are necessary for learning about people's opinions and experiences.

In this project, the primary research method used was semi-structured interviews. This method enhances the learning process - in semi-structured interviews, new information shared by the participants can be easily integrated into the interview guide and included in the ensuing questions. As such, participants can contribute to the research design, enhancing mutual learning and cooperation between the researcher and the participants.

In total, 18 interviews were conducted, 13 with representatives from NGOs, and five at the case study community organisations. 17 conducted face-to-face and 1 over the phone, lasting an average length of 44min, with 8 participants being female and 10 male. The interviews took place in Edinburgh, Inverness, Musselburgh, Glengarry and Loch Arkaig. Research participants were selected following the existing reports about NGOs' land ownership and community engagement. Contact details were received from the Land Policy team and colleagues from RESAS department.

Following the first round of interviews, snowball sampling method was employed to establish further connections. The case studies were selected following recommendations from the Scottish Government policy unit to include both rural and urban examples. Other contacts were shared by the academic experts interviewed. The number of participants was limited due to the short duration of the project, however the majority of key stakeholders participated in the research.

NGOs and interview participants

  • RSPB Scotland and Scottish Environment LINK
  • John Muir Trust
  • National Trust for Scotland (2* participants)
  • Scottish Wildlife Trust
  • Scottish Community Alliance
  • Scottish Land Commission
  • Scottish Land and Estates
  • An expert from Perth University
  • An expert from Scottish Rural College
  • National Trust for Scotland's estate in Balmacara (phone, 1*)
  • An independent consultant
  • Glengarry Community Woodlands

Case Studies

  • Arkaig Community Forest and Woodland Trust (3*) (Appendix 1)
  • Cumbernauld Living Landscape (2*) (Appendix 2)

Data management

All interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and anonymised. The data was encrypted and safely stored and it will be destroyed within 24 months.


Email: Neil Davidson

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