Scottish Universities Insight Institute : a development from the institute for advanced studies

a development from the institute for advanced studies


Re-writing the rulebook of landownership: analysing and assessing the economics of community landownership

This project is developing understanding of the economic structures and outcomes of community ownership, an innovative form in the European and developed world context. Scottish land reform, which promotes community ownership as a socially just and equitable model, is an urgent political issue and will remain so for some years. This is because the Scottish Government expects that land reform will generate a range of outcomes beyond those directly related to land – re-population, employment, environment, sustainable development, entrepreneurial behaviors, housing and health. These priorities must also be balanced with constraints on the public purse, and robust discussion around the economics of community landownership, particularly in relation to the economic viability of upland land in Scotland, is urgently required.
The new (2015 and 2016) Land Reform and Community Empowerment Acts demand that Scottish society thinks and acts in innovative ways, to change the nature and outcomes of landowning structures. These constitute radical changes for all of Scottish society, and as such, demand a radical re-thinking of the purpose and impact of landownership, and a new set of assessment criteria. Also crucial in terms of innovation is the huge variation in the nature of community landowning currently in existence – from a few acres of community woodland to multifunctional, multimillion-pound ventures – this project will develop a means to economically assess these various community owners. But it will also develop other markers of assessment, which prioritise innovation aspects of the current land reform agenda. These will include cultural and social markers, such as the collective self-confidence of communities, governance structures used to manage land, and, most crucially, the strengthening of our fragile remote and rural communities.
Working with Community Land Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and partners in the Scottish Government, this project will operate through collaborative and co-productive methods. It will first capture and describe the current model that is community landowning, its features and values, and how it functions. It will then develop a rigorous set of criteria for the appraisal of the economic performance of community-owned land. The innovation focus of this project comes, therefore, in both the area of study and the structure of the activities. There will be both policy and practice outcomes from this project:
  • A report from the mapping exercise, outlining current economic activities/models used on community owned land;
  • An appraisal document, including a set of new, independent and rigorous criteria, developed through a process of consultation with community landowning groups themselves, against which the innovative economic models of community owned land might be judged;
  • A briefing paper, to share best practice from the outcomes in the policy/political and third sectors. This will be particularly valuable to the work on the new Scottish Land Commission, when it comes into existence in 2016. As part of sharing best practice, the project will also draw on international and historical comparators.
    To support these outcomes, the project will consist of the following activities:
  • A programme of interviews with key operators and owners, on current economic models in community owned land;
  • Three regional community roundtables to bring in views from community landowners across Scotland. These will take place in Western Isles, Highland and Argyll;
  • An international conference on community ownership and economic models in Inverness.


  • Programme Team
  • Regional Roundtables
  • Programme Presentations & Reports

Final Report

Roundtables Update


Western Isles roundtable (Stornoway): 
21st April 2016

Argyll roundtable (Oban): 
16 May 2016

Highland roundtable (Inverness): 
7 June 2016

Inverness conference: 
9 September 2016