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Community Land Scotland

Ailsa Raeburn, Chairperson

Ailsa is a former Chartered Surveyor based in Argyll with many years’ experience in property development, management and regeneration. Ailsa has been involved with the Community Land Sector now for a number of years. She is Chair of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust. She also served as a Director on the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust.

As Head of the Community Assets Team at Highlands and Island Enterprise, she was responsible for the development and management of the Scottish Land Fund, in partnership with Big Lottery Scotland, and on behalf of Scottish Government. She was also responsible for a team of advisers across Scotland who worked with community enterprises to develop and deliver transformational asset based projects.

At Community Land Scotland, Ailsa has worked with colleagues to support urban and rural communities across Scotland to acquire and develop locally important land and buildings. She also supports the Team on policy development and advocacy, focusing on legislative opportunities to further transformational change for communities. The upcoming Land Reform Bill, Community Wealth Building Bill and Human Rights Bill will all contribute to moving land reform forward in Scotland and ensuring a fairer and greener society.

Ailsa is also a member of the Boards of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Crown Estate Scotland.

Bridie Ashrowan

Bridie is Chief Executive of EVOC (Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council) and has over thirty years’ experience in the community sector, having worked in start-ups, social enterprise and business. Before joining EVOC, her she was Chief Executive at Space & Broomhouse Hub where she successfully headed the £3.2 million capital investment programme to open the Hub – a local community development trust in an area that has some of the highest child and in-work poverty in Scotland.

Megan MacInnes

Megan has worked for 25 years on land reform, community land rights and natural resource governance, in Scotland, internationally and in South East Asia. She grew up on a croft on the Isle of Skye as part of a crofting family in Applecross, where she has been the Local Development Manager for the Applecross Community Company since 2021. In this role she is also a co-opted member of the Applecross Community Council. Megan held the post of Commissioner for the Scottish Land Commission between 2017 and 2023 and between 2009 and 2020 worked with the international human rights and environmental NGO Global Witness. She is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and the University of East Anglia.

Grace Murray

Grace Murray is Chair of Stow Community Trust (SCT) which works for the improvement and development of the beautiful communities of Stow and Fountainhall in the Scottish Borders. Prior to retirement, Grace worked with Scottish Enterprise for 27 years in a variety of roles in economic development. These skills are now used to work with the local community to deliver transformational projects, including the completion of the award -winning Stow Station House. Grace is also a Trustee at the local Foodbank and lives in Stow.

Agnes Rennie

Agnes lives with her family in Galson on the croft originally allocated to her Grandfather after WW1. She has been on the board of Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn since the estate was purchased by the community in 2007 and currently serves as chair. She has had a long involvement in community development both professionally and as a volunteer member of many local and national bodies. She served as Crofters Commissioner for ten years from 1992 and as councillor with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for a five year term.

Rachel Skenes

Rachel is proud of a career which began as a returning graduate to Sutherland, determined to find her way to live and work back in the area. As has proved a common thread throughout her career, working alongside inspiring individuals with vision and commitment to the north through rich, critical, community-led projects has sustained and extended her experience of place-based, culturally attuned working from the grassroots.

These years of learning, gathering and developing have been across private, public and third sectors in paid, and voluntary roles. In 2022 Rachel took up an offer from community led to be project lead for the NW2045 Scottish Government Regional Land Use Partnership, then one of 5 in the national Pilot.

Rachel is committed to forging change through intelligent, collaborative working, with an emphasis on distributed and devolved structures and empowered decision making. Unafraid to question the status quo, while respecting a diversity of views, Rachel will support that which constructively challenges linear thinking in seeking ways forward. An optimistic, motivated person who loves working amongst others with vision & drive. Rachel fundamentally believes in the agency of communities in determining futures and looks forward to contributing to the important work of Community Land Scotland.

Mike Staples

Mike Staples is Chief Executive of South of Scotland Community Housing, which provides long-term support to community organisations relative to the planning and delivery of community-led housing. Prior to joining SOSCH, Mike worked on the strategic planning and delivery of regeneration projects across the UK, both in the public and private sectors. Most recently he worked on the Transformational Regeneration Area programme of housing renewal across Glasgow. Mike lives in the village of Moniaive in Dumfries and Galloway.

John Todd

John is a Chartered Accountant with many years’ experience in working with private business and third sector organisations, primarily in the Highlands & Islands. He was previously a Tax Partner in a large, Scotland-wide accountancy practice advising entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals and owner managed businesses.

Dr. John Watt OBE

John retired as Director of Strengthening Communities at Highlands and Islands Enterprise in 2012, where he had responsibility for HIE’s work with social and community development, including community land ownership and the growth of social enterprises. He has been involved in local economic and social development at policy and grass roots levels for nearly 40 years, through his work for HIE and its predecessor the Highlands and Islands Development Board.  He established HIE’s Community Land Unit and involved in many high profile community buyouts. He helped deliver the first Scottish Land Fund and the BIG Lottery’s Growing Community Assets programme. 

From 2012 to 2021, John chaired the Scottish Land Fund committee. He was previously vice chair of the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Review Group, a member of the Scottish Committee of the BIG Lottery, and a non-executive director of New Start Highland, a social enterprise based in his home town of Inverness.  John was brought up in Inverness and after graduating from Aberdeen University, he worked as a voluntary teacher in Malawi, and then undertook a post graduate qualification in Canada before returning to the Highlands.

Kate Wimpress

Kate is a third sector leader, who has worked for arts organisations and local authorities across Northern Ireland and Scotland since 1990. Currently Kate is the Director of North Edinburgh Arts, which provides opportunities for individual and community development through contact with the professional arts.

The organisation is active in the local regeneration process, completing a Community Asset Transfer from the City of Edinburgh Council in 2021. The North Edinburgh Arts venue, operating as a community anchor across the pandemic, is now undergoing a £4.2m refurbishment and extension as part of the MacMillan Hub, due for completion in 2023.

Kate is a Trustee of Tinderbox Orchestra, chaired Scotland’s Regeneration Forum (SURF) from 2018 to 2022, remaining as a Board Member, and was the Convener of the first Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, August 2019 to January 2021.