Transforming Scotland through ownership
72% of residents in the Western Islands live on community-owned land. Community ownership of land and buildings is the norm there, and we think community ownership should be mainstream throughout Scotland. When communities purchase the land on which they live and work, they are empowered to reinvigorate their areas on their own terms and to improve the prospects of future generations.
Community owners work across a range of funding sources and business models, while investing profits into their local communities. Community owners are by their nature skilled at delivering development in ways that bring real value to communities.
Community ownership organisations have membership open to anyone in their local community, and local democratic accountability through participation and governance.
We know that community ownership of land and buildings can be transformative, as it has been for many of our members. The key is that communities need to be in charge, and that ownership should be done on their terms.
Considering a community land or building purchase is the start of a long journey, often to reverse many years of decline. It can begin with a sense of powerlessness or frustration at lack of control over local spaces. Half of the country’s privately owned land is held by just 432 owners and a mere 16 owners hold 10% of Scotland (Wightman 2013). A third of the population of Scotland lives within 500 metres of a vacant or derelict site, and there are over 500 of these sites which have been undeveloped since before the year 2000. An absentee landlord is an absentee landlord, whether this is an owner of a highland estate or a commercial building in a city centre. Landowners in Scotland have land rights and responsibilities, and communities have a right to buy land. Land should be owned and used in ways that are fair, responsible and productive.
Community Ownership: The Practicalities
There are three main routes to community ownership:
- Private Negotiated Sale
- Community Right to Buy
- Asset Transfer from Public Authorities
The process and funding options for the different routes to community ownership vary.
The Community Ownership Hub: Glasgow and Clyde Valley can provide guidance on private negotiated sales and tips on community right to buy. We’re happy to answer questions on community ownership and point you in the right direction; we appreciate that support can seem confusing at first.
Land reform is changing the arrangements governing the possession and use of land in the public interest. Since 2003 land reform has been creating a Scotland where land is owned and used in ways that are fair, responsible and productive; expanding land reform in urban Scotland has enormous potential in the coming years.
In Scotland the Community Right to Buy land and buildings was introduced by the 2003 Land Reform Act. This follows on from a long history of Scottish community ownership, stretching back to Stornoway in the 1920s. In more recent times: in the 1990s the Assynt Crofters, and communities in Eigg, Knoydart and Gigha undertook to buy the land they lived on because these communities felt they were on their knees; if they didn’t do something for themselves their communities would likely join the empty spaces across Scotland. These groups bought their land and have since undertaken wide-spread investment in their local areas.
The Community Right to Buy and Scottish Land Fund was extended to urban areas in 2016, and there are many urban community ownership successes to date.
While we promote all types of community ownership, we focus on community acquisition of privately-held land. This is partly due to our history of supporting communities in private estate buy-outs. We also know that community acquisition of private land brings the benefits of that ownership into the common good, held by local and democratically accountable organizations.