- Monday, 20 February 2012 21:56 Hits: 1848
The announcement of a new Scottish Land Fund will be welcomed by many communities aspiring to own assets and the land they live on. I've been thinking about the realities of land ownership, and the responsibilities and challenges that can go along with this.
Communities once joined by a common goal and purpose may find themselves bogged down in the day to day business of being landowners, losing sight of the shared vision that once brought them together and growing impatient or critical of each other. Communities with very little income or lacking the means of generating an income may find themselves struggling to maintain an elderly housing stock, for example, or having to find the money to clear up a woodland devastated by a winter storm. Unlike the statutory bodies or landowners which passed on these assets, communities don't usually have reserves to fall back on, budgets which can be re-allocated, or pots of money to be spent by the end of the financial year. At a time of recession, it may prove difficult to attract new community members with self-build aspirations when the only plots available have no access and infrastructure. Community ownership undoubtedly brings many benefits, but should perhaps come with the caveat; will you be able to manage if things go wrong?
I managed to win us a year of support from the Scottish Community Development Centre and we had our first workshop with our patient, insightful mentor this month. We explored the original reasons for setting up the Trust, whether we're doing what we set out to do then, and what our strengths and weaknesses are. I found it extremely useful and interesting, and I'm incredibly grateful that we have support from such an experienced organisation at this time of change and development on the island.
Also this month we have found tenants for one of our two remaining crofts. They have remained keen and undaunted, though with their feet firmly grounded, since they visited the island last autumn, in spite of our best efforts to put them off. The croft has no electricity, no water supply, and a very rough access track with a ford through a river which becomes impassable after heavy rain, and it rains a lot here. It's going to take a lot of work to make it productive. However, their positivity and enthusiasm is infectious and very welcome; they have some interesting and unconventional ideas and solutions which makes me think they might just succeed, and teach us a few things along the way. They spent most of the last year travelling around the UK in a campervan – the Scotsman wrote an article about them recently, and they have a blog about their adventures too. They plan to make the big move in May, increasing our population by 10% - I can hardly wait!