During a debate in the Scottish Parliament today, celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Argyll’s Isle of Gigha community buy out, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has called for the next chapter in Land Reform.
Mr Stewart, who led the Members Debate at Holyrood, used the example of the transformation that has occurred on the Island and in other estates across Scotland, to press the need for further land reform.
‘Gigha is an exemplar in the debate. On the island you find a thriving community, a youthful and dynamic population, a number of new business start ups, a fine housing refurbishment project and a community energy resource, exporting power to the national grid.
‘Yet this was not always the case. Dwindling populations, poor housing stock and a lack of opportunities offered real fears for the future sustainability of the Island. Indeed as recently as 2000 the population was less than 100 people. Gigha, as with so many other places in Scotland, had been passed from landowner to landowner with no reference to the community, choking the entrepreneurial spirit of the residents and stifling development.
‘However 10 years ago the community had a chance to purchase their island and some simple statistics tells the story of what has happened since then:
- The population has grown by over 50% to the present figure of 160.
- Over two thirds of the housing stock has been refurbished and the first ever socially affordable new build houses have been built.
- The Island has moved towards sustainability by purchasing and constructing its own windfarm – providing a revenue stream for the island and meeting approximately two thirds of its electricity needs.
‘This is what comes when private land ownership gives way to community ownership, when a community, democratically, has control of its land and associated assets and can utilise that land in the cause of securing a more sustainable future.
‘Some 500,000 acres of Scotland is now owned and managed by local communities and, significant though that is, it still represents only a small fraction of the Scotland’s land – there is so much more scope to push the agenda of community ownership further forward. Doing that will help bring the benefits we are seeing on Gigha and elsewhere to many more communities.
‘I am looking for an assurance that this Government will act on the outcomes of the Land Reform group and deliver the potentially radical change that is going to be needed to drive this agenda forward, by legislating before the end of this parliament.
‘A new chapter of land reform is ready to be opened.’