Rural communities in Scotland can now apply for support to help buy their land, Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson announced today (Friday).
The new £6 million Scottish Land Fund which will empower communities by helping them acquire land opens for applications on Monday (July 2).
Several communities in the Western Isles including North Uist, the Bays of Harris and Carloway are exploring the idea of community buyouts and could benefit from this fund should they go ahead.
The Minister announced the opening date for the fund – which will be delivered by Big Lottery Fund Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise - during a visit to locally owned Crossgates Community Woodland.
Mr Stevenson said: “Today is an historic day for community land ownership in Scotland - I’m delighted to announce that our Scottish Land Fund, which will empower rural communities to help them acquire land, is now open for applications.
“The Scottish Government fully supports community buy-outs and is committed to building strong and resilient communities throughout Scotland.
“Both Big Lottery Fund Scotland and HIE will ensure the fund makes the best use of existing resources and expertise to maximise the land fund’s potential.
“These are exciting times for Scotland and this fund will help more of our rural areas to take control of their own destinies and build the successful, flourishing communities of tomorrow.”
David Cameron, Chairman of Community Land Scotland said:
“Today communities can start the process of applying to take more control of their futures. With the knowledge the new Land Fund was coming, a number of communities have expressed interest in taking the bold step to community ownership and make a start to a better future.
“I believe that such will be the interest, it is likely the demand we always knew was there for a dedicated land fund will out-stretch the available resources. When that moment comes I hope the Scottish Government will respond positively and support building ever more momentum in achieving further land ownership change. Communities which have been liberated from the past ownership pattern have been making real advances, and more communities need a taste of that opportunity and success.”
Mr Cameron also welcomed the combination of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Big Lottery in the funding process, he added:
“The combination of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, now bringing their expertise in community land purchase to the whole of Scotland, and the Big Lottery, is a powerful one. We look to communities being actively supported to meet their ambitions and a speed of administration that will allow communities to meet important deadlines as they negotiate for their land.”
Pictured is North Harris which is already in community ownership.