A leading commentator on Highland issues has been appointed to the board of Community Land Scotland, the first from the Far North to become a director of the membership organisation for community landowners across Scotland. At 29 the Thurso-based Magnus Davidson, will also be the youngest board member yet.
His name will be familiar to anyone following the debates on community regeneration, land use, repopulation and the renewable energy sector in the Highlands and Islands. He has become an important advocate for the cause of strengthening Scotland’s most rural and fragile communities.
Ailsa Raeburn, Chair of Community Land Scotland, whose membership stretches from Annan to Applecross and Glasgow to Gigha, said ‘We are really pleased to welcome Magnus Davidson to our Board. As the youngest member of our Board, he brings really valuable new perspectives to our work as well as great local knowledge of the communities of Caithness and Sutherland and their aspirations for the future.’
Magnus was brought up in Cromarty on the north east tip of the Black Isle, but his forebears were from Caithness and Sutherland where they were evicted from their homes in the 19th century.
Having left to go to University in Glasgow, Magnus was keen to return home to the Highlands where he now lives with his young family. Opportunities at the University of the Highlands and Islands have enabled him to do so as both student and staff where he now works as a research associate with the Environmental Research Institute based at North Highland College UHI.
He is already a Board member of the Thurso Community Development Trust who are developing a range of projects in the town, including a community hub, a local climate action project and sustainable tourism promotion for the town. He is also a Board member of North Highland UHI and a committee member with the Caithness Broch Project, as well as being one of the founders of the Scottish based 2050 Climate Change group.
Magnus said ‘We are desperately in need of more young people to get involved in community ownership and regeneration. It’s our future and that of our children that is at stake. I have three children at home, and I want the first option for all of them to be able to stay here when they are older, if that is what they choose.’
‘The Northern Highlands have such fantastic potential for community led regeneration, community renewables and we must make sure young people’s voices are heard about the big issues affecting our region. Communities can deliver affordable housing and help stem both the tide of depopulation but also look at re-peopling areas which lost people over the last 250 years. On various branches of my family there are relatives cleared from Strathnaver and Kildonan, as well as I think Eilean Hoan on the north coast of Sutherland. We must find ways of providing more housing and crofts and land for people who want to stay, or return, or come and live in this fantastic culturally rich landscape. I care deeply about both people and nature and this is not an either ‘environment or people’ argument – there is room here for both here to thrive and we need to find ways of achieving this.’
Community Land Scotland are planning a series of awareness raising events in the region over the next 3-4 months.
Ailsa Raeburn ‘We know there are lots of concerns locally about the impact of some large landowners and the power they feel they can exercise over local people and local democratic decisions. This is Scotland in the 21st century, a Scotland with a very exciting future for its people and land – not a Scotland rooted in the 19th century where a very small number of people held huge power over the land and its people. Diversifying land ownership and spreading the benefits of who owns the land and natural assets is critical to achieving this fairer Scotland. We are looking forward to speaking to people in Caithness and Sutherland over the next wee while, to talk about what community ownership has achieved elsewhere in terms of getting a better balance of power.’
The final word goes to Magnus ‘I am proud to be from the Black Isle but now call Caithness my home. I identify deeply with Highland culture and that obviously leads me to be passionate about wanting to see change that puts more power into the hands of local people. I want to see the incredible resources we have up here in the Far North be used to benefit local communities – whether that’s via land ownership, community led renewables, community led climate mitigation or more affordable housing. Community land is the obvious alternative to improve on the social, economic, environmental, and cultural landscape we currently see today, often associated with the negative impacts of concentrated and absentee ownership.’
Community Land Scotland is the representative body for Scotland’s community landowners. www.communitylandscotland.org.uk
Contact: Ailsa Raeburn, Chair, Community Land Scotland
Tel: 01546 850335