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Welcome to the Scottish Community Land Network

This site is for people interested in the management and ownership of land-based assets by communities in Scotland. A Scottish Community Land Network, you might say... As you know the internet is a big 'place' with everything about anything so we brought you relevant news and events, and provide opportunities to share ideas with other people interested in this subject. There are almost 1000 members, and more than 800 articles in our archive.

 

Scottish Community Land Network will not be kept up-to-date after March 2012. However, a new site is being produced by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and details will be published on this site as soon as they are available.

The most recent articles are available on the home page - previous articles are in their relevant topic areas (browse the 'Topics' menu on the left).

Handing out the cash

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If I crane my head out of the window, bashing my temples on the drainpipe as I do so, I can just about make out the tips of the Udny Community Wind Turbine. On the occasions when I subject myself to the whims of the spiders nestling in the window frame, those turbine tips are always turning – popping up and dipping back over the horizon with a reassuring regularity. Which suggests that the turbine has yet to be hacked down by an angry Mr Trump and is continuing to generate power, and hence cash, for the local community.

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It's a set-up...

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The heady first days of a new community group can be filled with enthusiasm and passion. Finally, it feels like you can begin all those things you wanted to do. And then, most folk end up coming down to earth with a bump as the reality of mundane matters like constitutions, office-bearers and legal structures begins to set in. The first whiff of excitement can be quickly quashed by a multitude of forms, submission dates and legal language that sounds like it hasn't been updated since the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

So, how does a new group get through it all? How do you decide what set-up your group should follow? What are the options and what happens if you get it wrong?

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Figuring out public asset transfer………one woman’s search for the magic bullet

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This is the fifteenth case study I've written for SCLN. So, by now, you'd think I'd know better than to expect to find the magic bullet when I visit a project. Or is it the smoking gun? Whatever metaphor you want to pick, I turned up at the Boyndie Trust's visitor centre near Banff fully believing I'd discover the missing ingredient that can make public asset transfer a breeze.

Will you be very surprised if I say it didn't quite work out that way?

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Milk, two sugars and some consultation please

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Some call it consultation.  Others call it market research.  But the people of the Cabrach, in Moray, just know it as putting the kettle on.

Most of us would be more likely to associate the phrase door-to-door with a double glazing salesman than with a community consultation process.  But in a search for answers amongst the good folk of the Cabrach, that’s just what Kim Siu has done.

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Can you make pennies from pebbles?

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Many years ago, when I was young and enthusiastic with no grey hair, I moved to a new job in Aberdeenshire.  Suddenly, I was immersed in a strange land full of people ‘chavin awa’ and randomly adding ‘y’s to every word(y).  Very different from my previous life in Inverness, right enough.

Nervous, but still brunette, I was handed a project involving an area of woodland that had been ear marked for quarrying.  Located next to the village of Woodhead near Fyvie, the woodlands had become a popular spot for walkers as well as a haven for wildlife in an agricultural landscape.  Which might have been cause enough to oppose the quarrying.  But these woodlands are also a geological Site of Special Interest (SSSI), internationally recognised for their unique geological history.  The stones beneath the woodlands provide vital clues to the nature of Scotland towards the end of the last ice age.  Or so I’m told. They may have been just pebbles to you and me, but for geologists the Windyhills deposits are the giant panda of the rock world – unique, rare and threatened.

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Half a million quid anyone?

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‘And how much is it you’re looking to borrow?’

‘Half a million.’

I paused in my note-taking and glanced around the table.  No-one batted an eyelid.  The solicitor jotted down the number with no more reaction than someone recording the morning’s milk order. It was just me who seemed surprised.  But then, I was the visitor – I’d been invited to sit in on a Directors’ meeting of the West Harris Crofting Trust and I was definitely getting the ‘inside story’ of the reality of life after the razzmatazz of a community buy-out.

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Assynt - magic carpets, deer and puppies?

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A day spent climbing Ben More Assynt probably isn’t good preparation for interviewing community land groups.  So it was just as well that Mark Lazzeri from the Assynt Foundation had a bouncing dog to leap on me every time the sunburn and tired legs started to get the better of me.  To add to the entertainment, the power had gone off in most of North West Scotland, so a stream of interruptions kept me alert as the options for powering Glencanisp lodge were debated.

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From Bath to a washing machine...

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It’s not often that you’d think to connect Wick and Bath, but that’s exactly what Thomas Telford did.  Commissioned to design Lower Pulteneytown in Wick as a self-contained fishing community, Telford apparently based his plans on the architectural themes of the famous spa town.  Arriving in Wick now, it’s hard to pick out Telford’s original vision.  Dominated by big retailers on the northern and southern outskirts, the town seems to have lost some of its spirit, along with its fishing industry.

Fresh from the tourist trail on the west coast, I was almost tempted to skip straight through and beetle on down to the more reliable delights of Golspie.  But I’d arranged to meet up with the Pulteneytown People’s Project, so I negotiated the labyrinth of roads on the south of the harbour, searching for their offices.  Lost in the maze of Telford designed streets, I passed the inconspicuous Old Pulteney whisky distillery at least three times before I finally found my destination.

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Freezing cold water - friend or foe?

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Stepping into the knee high, freezing cold burn, any potential benefits from a constant supply of running water were a long way from my mind.  As I swore not so quietly under my breath, fighting against the current and the rapid loss of sensation in my legs, my focus was entirely on staying upright and getting to the other side.   Which made it particularly ironic that I’d spent the previous day listening to the people of Knoydart extol the virtues of high river flows and the constant generating power of a tumbling burn.  And regardless of my stumbling and splashing in mid spate, there’s no denying that Knoydart does have an abundance of the wet stuff.  So it probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise to realise that the village of Inverie, on the south side of the peninsula, is powered by a hydro scheme.

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At the end of the rainbow......

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There’s a legend that says you can find a crock of gold nestling at the end of a rainbow.  So when I saw the foot of a huge double rainbow settle slap bang in the middle of the Kingsburgh community woodland on the Isle of Skye, I wondered if someone had cracked the answer to income generation from community assets.

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Woolly jumpers and Father Ted?

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If I mention the Aran Islands to you, what’s the first thing that springs to mind?  I guess some folks will assume I’m having a bad day with my spelling and counting and actually mean Arran, whilst other folk might mention woolly sweaters.  And after that?  Any more mental images of these islands, tucked away on the windswept west coast of Ireland?  Father Ted?  How about electric cars, dramatic cliffs and ancient stone forts?  Probably not the image you’ve got, but, as it turns out, it’d be a pretty accurate representation.

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Sleat so far.....

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Pretty much anyone who’s been involved in the Scottish community land sector over recent years is likely to have heard of the Sleat Community Trust.  I’d seen their name in all sorts of places, but never really felt like I had a handle on just what it was they were doing.  So a recent trip to Skye seemed a perfect opportunity to call in and find out a bit more about who they were and what they did.

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In search of the ideal campsite

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For anyone following the discussions on the SCotLaNd forum, a case study about a community run campsite will come as no surprise. This summer we took a camping trip to Islay but, before we went, decided to do a bit of 'internet research' to see what our options might be.

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Ty's great British makeover - the Langholm experience

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The last week of May was a hectic and exciting time in Langholm as the local community hosted the US TV star Ty Pennington and his UK film crew to make the third series of his show 'Ty's Great British Adventure'. 

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Antlers - a case study in cheesecake

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A drizzly, midge infested morning didn’t seem an auspicious start to a visit to Jura.  But, with one arm frantically waving around my head in the universally recognised ‘West coast wave’, I dashed into Antlers, the latest addition to the Jura scene.

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An interview with Maggie Fyffe

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Maggie Fyffe was recently awarded an MBE for her work with the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust.  We took the chance to ask her a few questions about how she got involved with the Trust and what made them such a success story. 

How long have you been involved in the Isle of Eigg trust and what has your role been? How has your role changed over time?  
We moved to Scotland in the early 70s, initially to the east coast, and then we moved across to Eigg in 1976.  I’ve been involved with the Trust since the early 90s - firstly as a member of the Residents Association, then I was elected as a member of the steering group to look at ways of taking the buy-out forward.  I was elected as a director once the Eigg Heritage Trust had been formed and somehow I ended up as the spokesperson for the group.  Then in 1998 I resigned as a director so I could apply for the job of administration secretary which I’ve done ever since.

What inspired you to get involved?
Seeing the injustice of the way a landlord could affect people’s lives and how the island was becoming demoralised and depressed because of it.  There wasn’t really one headline moment that inspired me, I just saw the events that were unfolding on Eigg at the time.  

What do you think have been the group’s greatest successes and challenges? Image of Eigg harbour
Living in a remote small community means that tackling any major project is a challenge.  I guess our biggest success is the way the community has risen to that challenge and continues to put a vast amount of voluntary effort into making things happen.  As for specifics, obviously one success was managing the buy-out in the first place – it was certainly a steep learning curve for all of us. 

Other things we can be rightly proud of include the building of An Laimhrig (the island’s pier centre with a shop/tearoom/craft shop/public toilets & showers); renovating 5 Trust owned tenanted properties; the renewable energy projects and being the only Scottish finalist in the Big Green Challenge.  Through all of those things we’ve tried to make sure that the work gets done by local people, which has helped to create employment on the island.  For example, we’ve done a lot of forestry work and people have had the chance to get trained and get the certificates they need, so the work can stay on the island.

What do you think has contributed to the group’s success?
At first it was the adversity - the sense of us versus a system of private ownership helped to catalyse us.  But it’s really just a bunch of ordinary folk who care deeply about the place they live in and who are prepared to put in the effort to improve their lot.

Did you have any disasters on the way?
I’m not saying it hasn’t been difficult at times but I don’t think we’ve had any major disasters and the good news is that 12 years later we’re still solvent!!

What would you do differently if you did it again?
I can’t really think of anything I’d change - the whole thing has grown organically, so people’s confidence and skills have grown in the process. The next generation are becoming more involved and there are people who are new to the island who are bringing in fresh energy.

What do you still want to achieve on Eigg?
We want to significantly reduce our carbon emissions and win the Big Green Challenge (well, and the £1million that goes with it, of course!).  We’ll find out who’s won in September this year, but there’ll be a lot of work done between now and then.  We’re always looking for ways of finding income streams which could be invested back into the island, so that’ll still be something we want to achieve.

Where are you planning to put the MBE – will it have pride of place on the mantelpiece or will it be in a drawer!?
I don’t have a mantelpiece or a display cabinet so it’ll probably be on display in the kitchen for a wee while and then end up in the general guddle!

What was the most unexpected outcome of your involvement in the Eigg Trust (apart from the MBE), and what was the most unexpected outcome for the community?
I used to make patchwork quilts and crocheted slippers so spending most of my time in front of a computer screen is quite a big change of direction!  The changes we’ve seen happen on the island over the last 12 years have had a huge impact on people’s lives – probably much more than we realised when we were starting out.

What advice would you give to others who are just starting out on the road to community ownership, or those who have lost their way?
Commitment is the main key, along with having solid community backing and being prepared for the huge amount of work it will entail.  Sharing information by whatever means is important but the best way for people to learn from our experiences is to come and see it for themselves.

If you were the Scottish Government minister in charge, what would you change to make a difference to community land ownership?
If we were starting out now, the structure that the trust has wouldn’t qualify under the terms of the Land Reform legislation.  So maybe more flexibility in how the legislation works and who can use it would be helpful.  Although community land initiatives share a lot of similarities, there certainly isn’t a one size fits all, so flexibility is really important.  I’d try and promote more recognition for the importance of the social enterprise sector as well.

Kinghorn Community Land Association

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Where is it?  The Royal Burgh of Kinghorn lies about half way between Burntisland and Kirkcaldy, on the south coast of Fife.  Kinghorn Loch is located to the north west of the village.  The north side of the loch is currently home to the Ecology Centre, whilst the east and west sides are former industrial sites.  A lot of local people use the loch and its surrounding area for quiet recreation and enjoyment of the outdoors.

What is it?  Kinghorn Community Land Association (KCLA) was formed in response to concerns about the loch and the land surrounding it.  The group currently has over one hundred members, including a steering committee of eight people.

Why did the community decide to form a group?  In 2003, the landowner attempted to evict the Ecology Centre from their site on the edge of the loch.  Although that wouldn’t necessarily have meant that local people could no longer use the area for recreation, it did make them realise how much they valued the land.  They also realised that, as things stood, they had no say in how the area was used and managed.

How did they form the group?  The Ecology Centre applied for a technical assistance grant from the Scottish Land Fund to investigate the possibility of using the Land Reform Act to secure the Kinghorn loch area for the community.  The investigations included a community consultation and a public meeting was held in February 2004, which was attended by 140 local people.  After discussion, 98% of the people at the meeting voted to pursue registering an interest in the land under Part 2 of the Land Reform Act, the so-called ‘Community Right to Buy’.  Some people volunteered to be part of a steering group, which eventually became the Kinghorn Community Land Association.

boats on lochDid they register an interest in the land?  As the KCLA was finding its feet and beginning to function as an organisation, rumours spread that an area of land adjacent to the east lochside was up for sale.  KCLA was forced to try and catch up with the situation by putting in a late application to the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD).  As KCLA didn’t have Community Body status as yet, it was decided to form a new group called KCLA2005.  This group was virtually the same in all but name, and was formed to speed up Ministerial recognition for the Right to Buy process. This avoided the time consuming process of changing the group’s original Memorandum and Articles of Association to fit with the emerging requirements of SEERAD.  An application to register an interest in the land was submitted in March 2005 and accepted by SEERAD in May 2005.

So did they get to buy the land?  At the same time as the registration of interest was approved, the seller of the land announced that it had already been sold, prior to the date it was first marketed and the group’s registration under the Land Reform Act.  The group considered a legal challenge, but were advised that it would be expensive and had no guarantee of success.

What did they do after that? The association completed a lot more community consultation to establish what the community wanted to achieve with the loch area.  As a result, they were able to produce a vision statement for Kinghorn Loch and its surroundings.

They also realised that they needed to submit registrations for the remaining areas of land at the Loch as soon as possible, to avoid any more of the land being sold on the open market.   Eighteen applications were prepared, but the group tried to tread a difficult line between wanting to be open with their community whilst avoiding publicity that would encourage landowners and developers to take out pre-emptive option agreements.  But trying to do things quickly and quietly also caused problems, with the community council expressing concerns that the applications had been submitted without much opportunity for public debate.  A community meeting was held to discuss the situation further and to ensure that everyone had an opportunity to voice their opinions.  All eighteen applications were eventually approved by SEERAD in June 2007, after many months of waiting for the KCLA.

What’s happening now?  Although the right to buy registrations were eventually accepted by SEERAD, the community can only buy the land if it comes up for sale and if they can raise the funds required for purchase.  KCLA have now commissioned a feasibility study for all nineteen plots around the Loch so they are as prepared as they possibly can be for when owners decide to sell and trigger the Right to Buy process. Meanwhile the developer who bought the very first plot on the east lochside has now offered to sell it to KCLA after all.  KCLA plan to buy and lease it on for a new Ecology Centre base.

Many thanks to Chris Mitchell from KCLA for his assistance with preparing this case study.

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