Unwilding? A "Community Land" View

Ken Thomson

Community Land Scotland webpage

Community Land Scotland (CLS) is the body (a charity constituted as a company limited by guarantee, and largely government-funded) which represents Scotland's new "community land owners". Its 75-odd members manage over 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) of land, home to some 25,000 people. In addition to its traditional goal of promoting community ownership of land, CLS is now thinking about ¡§renewal and repopulation¡¨, partly in response to pursuit of "landscape policy" by many conservation bodies. This policy of course includes the designation of "wild land areas", which cover about 3.8 million acres, or about 1.5 Mha, of Scotland.

A page of the CLS website is now dedicated to this new theme. It argues that, in Scotland, "an elite view [can] tend to value the lack of human presence, emptiness, remoteness, notions of solitude, and what is, mostly wrongly, portrayed and perceived as naturalness. To others the very same places can appear places that can appear forlorn and desolate when those areas once were home to vibrant communities, rich in culture and far more bio-diverse than they are today". Such places include both abandoned villages and shielings that, for many hundreds of years, were occupied for several months each summer. CLS is therefore pursuing people-centred (rather than, or as well as, nature-centred) "landscape justice", a development of the longer-established goals of "environmental justice" and "social justice" (Chris Dalglish; see above website).

Abandoned shieling, Glen Slugain - naturalness or forlornness?
© Graham Marr, from his book “The Mounth Passes”

In a January 2018 submission on the Planning (Scotland) Bill now going through the Scottish Parliament, CLS proposed that: "in considering the National Planning Framework ...Ministers:

These provisions, if adopted, would further extend the "right to buy" contained in the reform Acts of 2003, 2015 and 2016.

In May 2018, the Committee published its Stage 1 report on the Bill, recording (para 256) "mixed" views on the creation of Simplified Development Zones (SDZs) - a vehicle (with other uses, many urban and industrial) that might be used for the above purposes but which cannot currently be used in conservation areas, such as "wild land". The Committee was "supportive of their inclusion within the Bill" but with some "changes made" (para 278), but was worried about governance, and costs. In its response to the Committee report a week later, the Government made no mention of "resettlement", considered (p. 19) that SDZs in general were subject to "misunderstandings", and proposed to bring forward "amendments" in Stage 2, which starts this autumn.

NEMT members may themselves have "mixed views" about the desirability and/or practicability of resettlement of "wild land" and similar places. Issues raised include:

Answers, if any, on a postcard, please!


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