As we find ourselves in the early days of 2016, I think this is a good opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved by Community Land Scotland during the past year.
A huge amount of work has been undertaken in terms of input to the Community Empowerment Act, the development of the Land Reform Bill, developing a strategy for achieving one million acres of community owned land by 2020, together with consultation responses on feed in tariffs, the croft house grant scheme, the proposed Island’s Bill, and others. Membership has grown to 65 communities, which is a fantastic achievement for an organisation which only celebrated its fifth birthday in September 2015. The profile of community land ownership has never been greater.
Our members have achieved a great deal in 2015, and the immense contribution by numerous volunteer boards, together with energetic and committed staff, has resulted in major advancements for the sector. We were all delighted to see Pairc Trust’s lengthy battle for community land ownership eventually succeeding, meaning that 70% of the population of the Western Isles shall now live on community owned land.
Community Land Scotland has won some notable funding support during the year. A grant of £175,000 over three years was awarded from the Scottish Government to promote community land ownership, £90,000 from Highlands & Islands Enterprise over three years for policy development and membership support, as well as other funding from Big Lottery, Carnegie UK Trust, Esmee Fairbairn, Highland Council, and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. I thank them all for their support.
I’d also like to thank my fellow board members for their tremendous commitment and valuable contributions towards developing community land ownership. Special thanks go to Angela Williams, Iain MacIver, Angus Robertson and Margaret McSporran who all left the board at various times during 2015. We were fortunate to welcome Ruth Cape back to CLS this year, and she has been most active on twitter and facebook, preparing members’ newsletters, and working with members and supporters. Peter Peacock has been incredibly busy during the year on behalf of the membership, and I have no doubt that the onward progress of Land Reform in Scotland would be much weaker without his sterling efforts. He has been instrumental in driving forward the human rights dimension of Land Reform, and bringing an international profile to the work of CLS.
Looking forward to 2016, we expect to see the Land Reform Act being passed, opportunities for devolution to communities post devolution of the Crown Estate, community led housing developments being implemented, and the promotion of further research on our sector. On 1st February, we welcome Linsay Chalmers as our new development manager. Linsay is originally from Galashiels in the Borders and currently heads up the Edinburgh Social Enterprise Network, and is a board member of Social Enterprise Scotland. Her priorities shall be to promote the awareness and benefits of community land ownership throughout Scotland, promote advice networks, and to develop promotional and support materials on community land ownership. Recent strong interest in community land ownership from out with the Highlands & Islands is most encouraging, and Linsay will be keen to capitalise on that interest and help achieve the one million acres’ target.
I wish you all a prosperous and successful 2016,
Bliahdna mhath ùr dhuibh uile!
Chairman – Community Land Scotland