Local MSP Maree Todd, SNP led a Holyrood debate on community land ownership, where she highlighted the triumph of the Garbh Allt community buyout in East Sutherland.
The community group purchased the Sutherland Estate land at Portgower Gartymore, West Helmsdale and Marrel as well as the hill land from the Countess of Sutherland with funding from the Scottish Government’s £10m Land Fund as well as the Beatrice Partnership Fund.
In 2013, the Scottish Government set a target of reaching One Million Acres of Community Ownership by 2020, and recent SPICe figures revealed that over 560,000 acres of land in Scotland are currently owned by nearly 500 community groups.
Maree Todd said:
“There is a sense of something being put right with this buyout, and the fact that the land owners actively co-operated with the community in the transfer of the asset is to be commended and encouraged.
“Research by Community Land Scotland has shown that communities that buy their own land reap a number of benefits – including the reversal of depopulation, the creation of jobs and the ability to make money that can be invested back into the community.
“The community in East Sutherland are just one example of nearly 500 community groups in Scotland that now own over 560,000 acres of land and control their own destinies.
“Remarkably, the new Development officer post resulting from the East Sutherland buyout is the first job that’s been created south of the Helmsdale river for over 60 years.
“It’s also particularly satisfying that the buyout was supported by funding from a local renewable energy asset. As I have said before in this chamber – harnessing the renewable energy potential we have in the Highlands and Islands will be transformative.
“Scotland’s land is one of our greatest assets, and in an inclusive and progressive Scotland it is only right that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from our assets.
“As our economy faces the prospect of a damaging, cliff edge Tory hard Brexit, empowering communities, both rural and urban, to harness their assets and flourish is more important than ever.”