Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has the joint highest number of community owned-assets of all the Scottish Parliament constituencies, according to a new Scottish Government report.
As of December 2018, Kate Forbes MSP’s constituency has 79 community assets owned by 58 different groups covering almost 24,000 hectares (23,971.73) – and an increase of over 1,000 hectares over the past 18 months. Argyll and Bute also has 79 community-owned assets, with 50 groups covering only 5,500 hectares.
In terms of land mass, the Western Isles (142,132 hectares) dwarfs the combined Highland region (60,042 hectares), as the Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency has 63 community-owned assets by 40 groups.
Across Scotland there is an increase in community-land ownership, but the national total (209,810 hectares) makes up less than three-per-cent of the total land area of the country.
Kate Forbes MSP said: “I am encouraged to see that Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has the joint highest number of community-owned assets in Scotland, and I sincerely hope the increase in community land ownership will continue.
“Land reform is a means to an end – an end where communities are in control of their own destinies. Time and time again I see examples of communities being thrown this way and that because they don’t have a stake in a significant local initiative, in local land or in other local assets.
“But, equally, community ownership itself is never the final destination. It is about what you do with land reform or community ownership that really matters. To achieve that, we’ve got to support communities with the expertise, guidance and advice they need. Too often, we provide the funding and the legal powers but forget that volunteers get tired and worn down. In communities across the land, there are a handful of individuals who are always in the driving seat and they deserve thanks and gratitude.
“For the Highlands to thrive, we need to support interventions that will really act as a catalyst for a thriving population. That has got to include land reform, but that has got to go in tandem with other forms of support. If land reform is the bedrock, then housing, infrastructure and connectivity are the building blocks of a sustainable community.
“Every community is different, and the notion of community ownership means that local owners can respond to local need. In some communities, they’ve been doing that for years. Elsewhere, they are just starting. I think that the saying, ‘proceed until apprehended’ should apply to local ambition and aspiration and communities don’t realise how powerful they truly are. It is, of course, never straightforward but ultimately communities have the powers, they can access funding and all they need are the people and the passion for change.”