Scottish Labour Leader visits Lewis

Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont has paid tribute to the community buy-outs that are transforming Scotland’s rural and island communities.

Ms Lamont yesterday (Wednesday) visited the Galson Estate in Lewis, which has been run since 2007 by a trust set up by residents to give them control over how the land is used.

Galson Estate Trust has used its ownership to build homes and create jobs for the community aswell as conserve the environment. Some 500,000 acres of land in Scotland is now in community ownership.

The Labour Leader also visited the Stornoway Trust, another public-owned estate.

Following the visit, Ms Lamont expressed concern about the lack of progress in enabling more community buy-outs.

She said: “What is happening on the Galson Estate is inspirational and mirrors what is happening across the Western Isles and I want to see many more communities getting the opportunity to share in the benefits of community ownership.

“These are exactly the kind of benefits that Labour wanted to see delivered when it took the historic Land Reform Act through the first Scottish Parliament a decade ago and this has halted and even reversed population decline in these communities by creating jobs and building homes.

“Despite the fantastic progress in areas like Lewis, it is still modest when set against the vast areas of Scotland still controlled by a tiny number of landowners and we need to give more people a stake in the land, with all the benefits that come from that.

“There is no doubt that this has lost momentum over the last few years despite the opportunities available for more community ownership.

“I welcome the Scottish Government’s review of land reform but the 18-month review period means it could take a number of years before this is progressed and I am concerned about the mixed messages being sent by Alex Salmond. The First Minister has failed to personally visit a community buy-out but did take the time to address the big private land owners’ annual conference, which they have taken as a `ringing endorsement’ of private land ownership.

“The land reform review group is an opportunity to look at radical recommendations to bring about significantly more community ownership, make existing legislation work better for communities and there is no reason why this should not be dealt with within the lifetime of this parliament.”