Rural communities in Scotland can now apply for support to help buy their land, Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson announced today.
The new £6 million Scottish Land Fund which will empower communities by helping them acquire land opens for applications on Monday (July 2).
The Minister announced the opening date for the fund - which will be delivered by Big Lottery Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise - during a visit to locally owned Crossgates Community Woodland.
Crossgates was the first community in Scotland to successfully purchase land through the community right to buy provisions in May 2005. It also achieved ownership of the "Taft", a 15 hectare wooded area, through funding from the first Scottish Land Fund which ran from 2001 to 2006.
Since the successful purchase, Crossgates Community Woodland has secured a number of significant achievements. These have included the planting of over 7,000 trees, the creation of a play park and the creation of around a mile of pathways and tracks.
Mr Stevenson said:
"Crossgates Community Woodland is an excellent example of what can be achieved when a local community, with a clear idea of how best to develop land for the benefit of its community, is supported to buy land.
"And today is an historic day for community land ownership in Scotland - I'm delighted to announce that our Scottish Land Fund, which will empower rural communities to help them acquire land, is now open for applications.
"The Scottish Government fully supports community buy-outs and is committed to building strong and resilient communities throughout Scotland.
"Both Big Lottery Scotland and HIE will ensure the fund makes the best use of existing resources and expertise to maximise the land fund's potential.
"These are exciting times for Scotland and this fund will help more of our rural areas to take control of their own destinies and build the successful, flourishing communities of tomorrow."
Neil Ritch, Head of Corporate Management, Big Lottery Fund Scotland, said:
"This is a really exciting opportunity to help more communities in rural Scotland own and develop their local land and land assets. We know from our experience delivering the original Scottish Land Fund with our partners at Highlands and Islands Enterprise that communities can achieve great things when they own and manage local land and land assets. I am delighted that we are working in partnership with HIE once more to deliver the new fund.
"The Scottish Government's new Scottish Land Fund will give communities the tools they need to take greater control of their own futures. We will combine our experience and expertise to give communities practical support in developing their ideas and aspirations and submitting strong applications for funding."
Sandra Holmes, Head of Community Assets at HIE, said:
"HIE is delighted to be involved in the delivery of this next chapter in the history of community land and asset ownership in Scotland. Over the past 20 years we have seen the benefits that ownership of assets brings to our communities. Community buyouts are no longer experimental projects but an effective and proven rural regeneration model.
"Around 500,000 acres of land are now in community ownership in Scotland - more than the John Muir Trust, the RSPB and the National Trust for Scotland combined. The new Scottish Land Fund will enable us to maintain the momentum and enable communities throughout Scotland to invest in a sustainable future."
Welcoming the announcement of the formal launch of the new Scottish Land Fund, David Cameron, Chairman of Community Land Scotland said:
"Today communities can start the process of applying to take more control of their futures. With the knowledge the new Land Fund was coming, a number of communities have expressed interest in taking the bold step to community ownership and make a start to a better future.
"I believe that such will be the interest, it is likely the demand we always knew was there for a dedicated land fund will out-stretch the available resources. When that moment comes I hope the Scottish Government will respond positively and support building ever more momentum in achieving further land ownership change. Communities which have been liberated from the past ownership pattern have been making real advances, and more communities need a taste of that opportunity and success.
David Cameron also welcomed the combination of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Big Lottery in the funding process, he added:
"The combination of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, now bringing their expertise in community land purchase to the whole of Scotland, and the Big Lottery, is a powerful one. We look to communities being actively supported to meet their ambitions and a speed of administration that will allow communities to meet important deadlines as they negotiate for their land."
The Scottish Land Fund will make available £6 million over the next three financial years - 2012/13 to 2014/15.
Potential applicants should call the enquiries Line at BIG Lottery 0300 123 7110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org