Scottish Land Fund: evaluation

Independent evaluation of the Scottish Land Fund, commissioned by the Scottish Government and carried out by Mark Diffley. It reviews the operation of the fund and makes recommendations for the future.

Background and Methodology


The Scottish Land Fund supports communities to become more resilient and sustainable through the ownership and management of land and buildings, giving more people the option for community land ownership than ever before. Access to the funds is given to allow for the purchase of plots, land and buildings. Guidance is given throughout the life of an application through a dedicated land fund advisor.

The Scottish Land Fund is delivered on behalf of the Scottish Government through a partnership between the National Lottery Community Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The Scottish Land Fund has clear outcomes, which are:

1. for communities to achieve more sustainable economic, environmental and/or social development through ownership of land and buildings,
2. for communities to have a stronger role in and control over their own development,
3. for communities to own well-managed, financially sustainable land and buildings.[1]

To apply for funding, applicants must first contact a Scottish Land Fund adviser and if eligible they will then be given an application form. The stages of the application process are:

  • Stage 1: Technical assistance funding,
  • Stage 2: Acquisition funding

All applicants to the fund must progress through Stage 1, although funding does not need to be requested at this stage. If funding is requested, Stage 1 grants can range between £2,500 and £30,000 and can be used to obtain specialist advice in preparation of a feasibility study. To progress through Stage 1 some community support must be evidenced.

The eligibility varies between stage 1 and stage 2 of application, with stage 1 requiring the applicant to be part of a community group, while stage 2 requires an applicant to be a corporate body.

The acquisition funding grants given in Stage 2 can be between £10,000 and £1,000,000 however there can be exceptions to this maximum value in unique cases. The funding in Stage 2 can cover capital and revenue costs, however the project must be viable and meet the aims of the Scottish Land Fund. It is understandable that not all of those who are successful at Stage 1 apply for Stage 2 funding.


The methodology comprises of the following key strands:

  • Strand 1: Secondary analysis of management information
  • Strand 2: Survey of applicants to the SLF
  • Stand 3: In-depth interviews with key stakeholders

Strand 1: A secondary analysis of the administrative data. This was carried out using quantitative data techniques.

Strand 2: An online survey completed by 186 community groups who have applied for SLF in the last five years. The survey questions were informed by the secondary analysis of the administrative data, and covered perceptions of the SLF processes and priorities for future change.

The survey questionnaire (Appendix A) was designed by Diffley Partnership and signed-off by Scottish Government. It was agreed that the survey would be scripted on the SurveyMonkey tool and issued online, by a unique link, to all applicants to the 2016-2021 Scottish Land Fund. A total of 400 questionnaires were issued; in total 25 were returned due to out-of-date email addresses, four opted out, giving a valid population of 371 and an overall response rate of 50%.

The fieldwork was issued online between 15th January – 5th February 2021. Several reminders to non-respondents were issued during this time.

Strand 3: 14 in-depth qualitative interviews with stakeholders. The interviews explored issues of eligibility criteria, timing, application processes; and considered priorities for future change.

The interviews were designed to explore the perspectives of those who are closest to the SLF who are best placed to make recommendations for areas for future change.



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