Since the last issue in spring 2016, there have been a number of developments in this area of policy and policy-making which are worth noting by Mountain Views readers. Most of these concern the effects of the Community Empowerment Act 2015 and the Land Reform Act 2016. There is also a second Land Use Strategy, and a new Scottish Rural Development Programme. Of course, current political and economic uncertainties arising from the Brexit vote still overhang all these areas.
Some key policy dates are:
In July, after election and referendum purdahs, no fewer than four research reports in the land reform area were published: see blogs.scotland.gov.uk/scotlands-economy. The largest analysed the effect of land ownership "diversity" by comparing economic and social outcomes over the past century in large estates (outside the crofting counties, but including at least one hill area) that have remained intact with those broken up into smaller units and farmed or managed in much smaller units. It concluded that scale of ownership is only one factor in determining whether a community is "successful". Diversified ownership had small positive effects on both agricultural intensity and population growth, but so did other factors, such as being near to successful urban centres.
Another report evaluated the Scottish Land Fund, which (under a succession of different labels) has spent some £124 million since 2001 on helping rural communities to buy and manage assets such as land. Another £84 million has been promised for the period up to 2020. However, the Fund now extends to urban areas, which, the study found, may complicate Fund decision-making as between, for example, urban housing, large rural estates, and small-scale rural projects.
A third report deals with "good practice in overcoming barriers to community land-based activities". These included ensuring "clarity of intention" on both sides (landowner and community), and developing a track record of mutual engagement. A fourth report, "Engaging and empowering communities and stakeholders in rural land use and land management in Scotland", focuses on how public bodies such as Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage can more effectively "engage" with and "empower" communities.
Please let the webmaster know if there are problems with viewing these pages or with the links they contain.