The Scottish Land Fund was relaunched this week with support from the Scottish Government trebling to £10 million in the next year. The expanded Fund is now open to urban projects as well as rural on the back of new legislation coming into force. It will encourage more communities to buy land and buildings in the heart of their local area that matters. Here Rebekah Dundas, Funding Manager, Scottish Land Fund looks back at the successes and facts and figures of the funds activity over the previous four years.
Over 90,000 acres of land was added to community ownership during the past four years under the previous Scottish Land Fund – which invested £9 million pounds making 52 awards.
The largest projects, by area, were both situated on Lewis in the Western Isles – a 34,000 acre buyout of croft land and a salmon hatchery at Barvas and a 26,000 acre buyout of the Pairc Estate which is home to a community of 400 crofters.
The smallest buyout projects, by area, to receive funding granted local communities funding to purchase key local assets including taking over the post office at Bonar Bridge to safeguard its future; establishing a community shop on Tiree; and local communities taking control of petrol stations on Islay and Newcastleton in the Borders. The average grant was £186,000 – which is significantly higher than it was on the first Scottish Land Fund when the figure was around £100,000.
The two biggest grants – of £750,000 each – were made to projects in Argyll buying forestry land from Forestry Commission Scotland to deliver economic, social and environmental benefits for the area. Kilfinnan Community Forest Company became the first community group to successfully expand woodland ownership through the National Forest Land Scheme, buying Upper Acharossan Forest, while South West Mull and Iona Development bought Tiroran Forest.
The smallest grant over the lifespan of the previous fund was £14,000 granted to Birse Community Trust near Banchory to buy an additional 12 acres of the Slewdrum Forest.
The breakdown of the awards made over the past four years shows there was a 60/40 split in the awards between the Highlands and Islands Enterprise area and the rest of Scotland, with awards made in 14 of the 32 local authority areas across Scotland.
Only five cases were rejected – less than 10% of the total wards made – which is recognised as a really high success rate for a funding programme.
The first award to be made under the previous four year tenure of the Fund back in December 2012 was to help Colintraive & Glendruel Development Trust take control of Stronafian Forest. This was seen as a flagship project as the Argyll and Bute-based project had one of the lowest intervention rates – ratio of Scottish Land Fund money to total project cost – at 19%, as it had over £1.3 million in private funding as leverage.
The highest intervention rate was 95% – on projects to convert a former school into a bunk house at Glendale on Skye; to redevelop the former Auchiltibuie Smokehouse at Coigach; and a community buyout of the town reservoir at Newburgh in Fife.
Over the four year period, there has been at least £4 million from other sources levered in towards acquisitions alone. This total ranged from other funders and negotiated discounts on sales, to the groups own funding to private sector support.
The initial Scottish Land Fund award is often the catalyst for further funders to come on board. An additional £4.5 million has been raised towards developing projects by organisations who have received awards over the last four years. Big Lottery Fund Scotland’s Growing Community Assets programme has been a significant contributor to this development funding. In the longer term we expect the additional funding total to rise as more development plans are approved.
The success of the previous four year Fund underlines the differences that community ownership is having across the country. We are looking forward to supporting more communities – in both urban and rural areas – make the right decision for them to deliver social, environmental and economic benefits for generations to come.
Want to know more about the Scottish Land Fund – then get in touch:
Tel: 0300 123 7110