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Frustration as Scot Gov slashes funding for community buyouts

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The SNP government had aimed to have the fund sitting at £20m annually by 2026.

It was set up in 2000 and three years later the Land Reform (Scotland) Act introduced rights for communities to purchase land.

The initial fund was £10m and this was later increased to £15m. By June 2005, the SLF had assisted roughly 200 communities.

Campaigners said the cut comes at a “particularly unfortunate” time when there is huge interest from communities in acquiring land but they are coming up against “hugely inflated” land prices.

The government said it remains committed to doubling the £11m fund, which is administered by the National Lottery and HIE, and said it is exploring opportunities for further in-year funding.

Dr Josh Noble, policy manager at Community Land Scotland, said it was disappointed by the “substantial” cut in government assistance.

He said: “Communities applying to the SLF have to go through a rigorous process to access funds and if successful have proven that they deliver excellent value for money in terms of fostering economic and social development around Scotland. 

Dr Josh Noble said the cut was 'disappointing' Dr Josh Noble said the cut was ‘disappointing’ (Image: Community Land Scotland)

“This comes at a particularly unfortunate time as community ambitions for buying land and buildings are higher than ever, yet communities are coming up against vastly inflated land prices. 

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to the Land Fund being £20m by the end of this Parliament.

“We also hope that the Land Reform Bill currently in Parliament can be sufficiently strengthened so that land prices can be kept proportionate and communities are empowered to intervene more readily in the land market.

The SLF has been underspent in recent years by about £3m  but campaigners say the main reason for this is “big price rises driven by big absentee investments”.

“It is true that the Scottish Land Fund has not spent its full budget in the last few years,” said Dr Noble.

“But that is mainly due to the huge rise in land prices across much of Scotland which has pushed possible purchases out of reach of communities.

“There are many cases where potential buyouts won’t get off the ground because the land has become more expensive.

“Any decrease in the Land Fund budget may only add to that circle of stalemate.”

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Notable community buyouts since the fund was set up have included the purchase of the island of Gigha, off the west coast of Kintyre.

The island was owned by private landlords until 2002, then Derek Holt, the last private owner, sold the island to the residents for £4.15m.

Gigha was taken over the community in 2002Gigha was taken over the community in 2002 (Image: Newsquest)

The population had peaked at over 700 in the 18th century, but during the 20th century the island had numerous owners, which caused various problems in developing the island. 

By the beginning of the 21st century the population had fallen to 98.

The community buyout is said to have transformed the island, which now has a growing population and a variety of new commercial activities to complement farming and tourism. A day of celebration making the buyout is held every year.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Ministers have already allocated £7.1m to the fund for 2024/25, remain fully committed to the doubling of the fund, and are examining opportunities for further in-year funding as the budgetary situation develops.

“This will help even more communities have a say in how land is managed in their area.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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