Ministers called on to revive land fund

Ministers are being urged to re-establish the Scottish Land Fund to finance a wave of community buyouts.

The Scottish National Party administration has been accused of indifference by former Labour minister Brian Wilson, who established the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) community land unit.

Wilson called for the fund to be revived and financed by Holyrood "to support the transformation of rural areas via community ownership".

The decade after 1997 is already perceived as a golden age of land reform, he claimed. "It was a period when legislation was delivered, money was made available, aspirations were encouraged and legacies of history started to be redressed."

He added: "It is a source of disappointment that the whole thing seems to be in danger of grinding to a halt, not because it has failed but because the essential sources of financial support and the vital input of political encouragement have dried up."

Wilson was speaking at a conference attended by 20 community landowning groups. They backed his call for the land fund and set up a working group to seek a meeting with ministers.

Past deals include the purchase of Eigg, islanders' £4.5 million for the South Uist Estate and Scottish Natural Heritage's handover of Rum to residents' ownership.

A government spokeswoman said the land fund had been superseded by the Big Lottery's community asset programmes. Although HIE retains a responsibility to support communities, she admitted that it faces difficult financial choices.

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