Kate Forbes, the Dingwall-based MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch backs calls for increased awareness of community asset transfers in the Highlands
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COMMUNITY ownership of land may help to tackle depopulation in rural parts of the Highlands, a Ross MSP has suggested.
Kate Forbes, the Dingwall-based MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, was speaking after she backed calls for increased awareness of community asset transfers and the process behind them.
Since taking effect in early 2017, the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 has enabled a number of transfers in the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency. Nationally last year 48 out of 81 requests were granted, compared to 33 out of 58 requests in 2017/18.
Various purposes were listed, including affordable housing, public toilets, multi-purpose hubs, sport facilities and community parks/woodland.
Glasgow Caledonian University researchers made the calls for increased awareness of the legislation after conducting a recent review of the process. They recommended that local authorities identify a “key contact person… who understands the Act as well as community engagement and participation, [which] would help to speed up processes” as well as “drive culture change in relevant authorities”.
Part of the Act gives community transfer bodies the right to request to buy or lease assets from relevant authorities.
Ms Forbes MSP said: “So many Highland communities have demonstrated the benefits of community ownership – taking control of key local assets to shape their future.
“A lot of hard work and effort, usually instigated and driven by a small group of volunteers, goes into making a success of it.
“In many cases, where it is public land, the public body can make a big difference to how straightforward and simple the process is.
“I think there is a responsibility on all of us to consider whether community ownership might make a difference, particularly in more rural areas that face the pressing issue of depopulation.”
The successful transfers (either through lease or ownership) that have taken place in Ms Forbes' constituency include the likes of:
- Site of Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, Ardnamurchan (Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust)
- Land at the Fairy Pools car park, Minginish, Isle of Skye (Minginish Community Hall Association)
- Tennis courts and pavilion, Kingussie (Kingussie Tennis Club)
- Land at Falls of Foyers car park, Foyers (Stratherrick and Foyers Community Trust)