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 behaviours, 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.