Highlands & Islands

Owning land 'boosts' rural Scottish communities

Galson, Lewis. Pic: Copyright of Iain White
Image caption Dr Skerratt and photographer Iain White visited community land trusts during the research trip

Community land ownership is playing a successful role in encouraging people to live in remote and rural areas, according to a new report.

Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) researcher Dr Sarah Skerratt travelled across north and west Scotland in a mobile home to gather evidence.

She had hoped to visit 17 communities, but bad weather prevented her from reaching the island of Eigg.

Dr Skerratt's report will be made available to MSPs.

Her journey by road and ferry took in community land trusts in Assynt, Lewis, Harris, South Uist, Skye, Knoydart, Rum, Mull and Gigha.

Image caption Further communities are being encouraged to consider community land ownership

Populations on the community owned lands ranged from 23 people to 11,000.

According to SAC, land trusts in Scotland own just under 500,000 acres (202,342 hectares) of land in total.

Dr Skerratt said: "It is evident that community land ownership is one clear way of achieving a more vibrant rural Scotland.

"While communities may not all have the range of skills and capacity needed for the task of purchasing and developing their land, they are overcoming the challenges by 'importing' training, guidance and support to complement what they have locally."

David Cameron, chairman of Community Land Scotland, said more communities should consider community land ownership.

He said: "On the basis of the evidence provided in the report, I am confident that it will encourage other communities to consider whether landownership could be an option for them.

"This applies not only to areas in the Highlands and Islands - I believe that there are absolutely no barriers to it happening right across Scotland wherever there are willing communities."

Duns-based landscape photo-artist Iain White was commissioned to take photographs during her travels in May this year.

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