From Barmulloch to Bonnymuir Green – This is not just a rural story

A new report published by Community Land Scotland presents the facts that 20% of all community owned assets are now urban, and not just rural. This change came about following the Community Right to Buy extended to cover urban areas in 2016, and is a remarkable achievement in that short time.  Almost £7m of funding was provided by the Scottish Land Fund to enable these buy-outs.

The report can be found at: https://www.communitylandscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/From-Barmulloch-to-Bonnymuir-Green-.pdf

Ailsa Raeburn, chair of Community Land Scotland said: “In the five years since the introduction of the game-changing Community Empowerment Act and the extension of the Scottish Land Fund to all of Scotland’s communities, the energy, ambition and achievements of Scotland’s urban communities has been inspiring.”

Land Reform is a story about all of Scotland. Community ownership is now established across Scotland – and in five years has grown exponentially across urban Scotland in particular. 20% of all community held assets are now in towns and cities.  Scotland is leading the way internationally in community led urban regeneration delivered by communities owning and controlling important local assets.

From Dumfries to Aberdeen, people have been using the new powers and funding made available to them by the Scottish Government since 2016 to buy and run shops, redundant churches, community centres, High Street buildings, woodland, parks, pubs and bowling greens. All are places and facilities loved by their communities and all have people prepared to commit considerable amounts of volunteer time and energy to save them. People and what they can achieve when they work together are at the heart of this fantastic success story for Scotland.

Although urban communities owning assets was not a new phenomenon – the great stories of Glasgow’s first housing associations have much to teach us about a community’s refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer, often in the face of intransigent authorities – what has happened since 2016 places Scotland at the front and centre of international urban land reform and community led regeneration. In the five years since the introduction of the game-changing Community Empowerment Act and the extension of the Scottish Land Fund to all of Scotland’s communities, the energy, ambition and achievements of Scotland’s urban communities has been inspiring.

When Covid hit, many of these community groups were able to build on the credibility and reach of their organisations to respond quickly and effectively to the crisis, often being first on the scene and well ahead of larger agencies. Now we are seeing many of them turn their focus towards providing local leadership and action on the huge issue of the climate crisis.

The struggles many of them had to go through – to save their local facility   or bring a derelict building or site back into use, or campaign for local regeneration – has given them the strength and skills to respond to these new challenges.

Ailsa Raeburn Chair of Community Land Scotland said

‘There are so many successes from the first five years of urban land reform in Scotland. The report we are launching today – ‘From Barmulloch to Bonnymuir Green: This is not just a rural story’ – highlights the vision and tenacity of urban community owners and establishes the transformational impact of community ownership and community-led development in urban areas. From the ‘Organised Acts of Kindness’ at Kinning Park during the Covid crisis to the major redevelopment plans in Dumfries, communities are demonstrating the depth and breadth of their vision and capacity for delivering change.

If all of this could be achieved in just five years, it’s exciting to think about what the next five will bring.’

Grace McNeill from Viewpark said on receiving the news of their buyout funding in 2020:

“The historic Douglas Estate now belongs to the people. After many delays, issues and hurdles, we now own the historic Douglas Estate. Thanks to all the board members, volunteers and fantastic community support – our glen is finally legally transferred into public ownership and we are most grateful to the Scottish Land Fund for their financial support.”

“We have been top of all the lists for all the wrong reasons here – recording the highest levels of asthma and coronary heart disease in North Lanarkshire. This is an important step towards preserving and protecting Viewpark Glen and giving back something of natural beauty and benefit to the health and wellbeing of our local community. We wanted to preserve this dear green space for future generations, so that they could be persuaded away from a sedentary lifestyle constantly on computers and iPad and come out into the great outdoors for healthier exercise and fresh air.”

John Watt, outgoing Chair of the Scottish Land Fund said ‘Community ownership empowers communities. It allows them to build on their strengths as they think about their future. Over the last five years across Scotland’s towns and cities, the Scottish Land Fund has supported flourishing groups to fulfil their potential as by owning land, property and other assets they have been able to generate income, create jobs, provide vital services, enhance local amenities and undertake projects that retain and attract new people to their communities. It is a privilege to work with communities and enable them to take control of their futures and become stronger. ‘

Cabinet Secretary Ms Cunningham said:

“Scotland’s urban communities have made remarkable progress in seizing the opportunities presented by the extension of the Community Right to Buy Act to the whole of Scotland including urban areas.  The subsequent extension of the Scottish Land Fund   to match that has also been a major support to community groups across the country.”

“Their achievements are a credit to the vision and hard work of so many volunteers who work tirelessly to make their local communities a better place. There has been a lot of progress in the last 5 years, but there is more yet to be done and I look forward to further progress being made in the next five years.”