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Landowners Respond to Community Empowerment Bill

SCOTTISH Land & Estates, which represents 2,500 landowners and estates throughout Scotland, said today private landowners and estates are committed to supporting ‘progressive, practical and common sense’ initiatives that will benefit rural communities.

Scottish Land & Estates has today submitted a full response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the proposed Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

Douglas McAdam, Chief Executive, said: “When the First Minister Alex Salmond gave the keynote address at the Scottish Land & Estates’ AGM earlier this year he recognised that our membership has a key role as part of communities in rural  Scotland – and he was right in that all those who live and work in rural Scotland have a crucial part to play in making it a more vibrant and successful place.  Constructive engagement and dialogue amongst all members of communities is essential.

“Rural communities can only prosper if they can become more dynamic.  Our members, who are very much part of their local communities, are heavily involved in and are committed to supporting progressive, practical and common sense initiatives that will benefit these communities.

“The consultation on the proposed bill deals with a wide range of issues with community empowerment at their heart. We wholeheartedly support community empowerment as one of the vehicles that should drive rural prosperity.  We should, however, be clear that there are a multitude of ways in which empowerment can be harnessed to the benefit of rural Scotland.

“In our view, the best way by far to increase community empowerment is to raise awareness of possibilities, highlight positive examples of what can be achieved, and promote best practice in terms of engagement with local people, rather than create yet more legislation which impacts on private property rights. There are many different forms of land ownership and land management in Scotland and we should be looking at what has been achieved and what can be achieved by this mix. One striking example is at Braemar Castle where the property has been leased for 50 years to Braemar Community Ltd which operates it as a viable tourist attraction to ensure the iconic structure is preserved for future generations. Funds are being directed towards repairs and improvements rather than being used to purchase the property. More recently Douglas & Angus Estate has made property available in Douglas village for the creation of a community hub alongside business space for small enterprises”

“Community empowerment should not necessarily be viewed as simply a transfer of ‘power’ from one group to another, but rather about the community having an influence in the decision making process and therefore achieving the best outcome by working together with property owners – both private and public .

“Scottish Land & Estates and our members are fully committed to an effective community planning process, which provides local people and stakeholders with a real ability to influence public sector service planning and delivery.  Community planning must involve all interests , this must include the business sector.”

“Overall we believe that proposals such as urban community right to buy and changes to compulsory purchase legislation should be considered in tandem with the work being done by the Land Reform Review Group.   We would argue that in order to achieve the most effective outcomes there is little merit in progressing legislation prior to the publication of the recommendations of that group.

“We feel strongly that discussions around community right to buy should be underpinned by the philosophy of ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ and that this should likewise apply to any temporary community use class of land. We would support such a use class  in principle through agreement between the landowner and the community but not where the landowner is forced to change the use class.”

 

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