In June 2020, Community Land Scotland and the Community Woodlands Association co-published a new report entitled “Built-in Resilience: Community Landowners’ Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis.” The report demonstrates the remarkable efforts made by community landowners’ to support their communities throughout the lockdown period, highlighting the ability of community landowners and organisations to be agile and responsive to local needs, harnessing existing infrastructure, deep-rooted social networks, and community support to protect the most vulnerable.
Owning and managing assets enables groups to improve the lives of their communities, and deliver on social and environmental objectives.
The experience of doing so builds collective confidence and capacity, developing local skills and empowering community organisations to reach out and tackle new issues.
Community landowners specifically have been able to respond with agility and speed due to their community reach and credibility.
The report showcases the stories of community landowners, from the Galson Estate Trust on Lewis, to Peebles Community Trust in the Borders, highlighting their responses to local need during the Covid-19 pandemic. The case studies illustrate the sheer variety of community responses, including communication systems, home deliveries of food and essential items, and tackling social isolation with online tools.
Key Takeaway Messages:
- The deep connections that community ownership models demand creates a strong mutual trust between these organisations and their communities, which enables partnership work and action to happen.
- These unique characteristics, along with local infrastructure and resources have enabled community landowners to be agile, and respond to the firsthand needs of their individual communities.
- The success of community landowners’ and organisations in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic proves their ability to respond to crises and future problems.
- It also draws attention to the investment into community landownership by Government and communities themselves, which has paid “unforseen dividends”, and highlights the ability of community landownership to be a model which adds real value to society.
CLS’s Policy Director Calum MacLeod says: “We need more community land and asset ownership because it’s a proven model of enhancing the resilience of rural and urban communities. The pandemic has underlined that.”
Future Policy Recommendations
The publication supports CLS’s call for a bold ‘Rural New Deal’, which would embrace further land reform, and be supported by an expanded Scottish Land Fund of £20m a year. The Scottish Land Fund, which has a current budget of £10m a year, should be expanded to provide the necessary investment into community acquisitions, and allow community land ownership to prosper across Scotland.
The report recommends a Land Value Tax and other fiscal measures which would reduce inflated land values which impede community ownership and benefit few private landowners. CLS also proposes a supplementary charge to the Land and Buildings Transactions Tax for the private sale of large rural estates over a certain size, to help finance the Scottish Land Fund.
Read more about the ‘Rural New Deal’ here.
Jon Hollingdale, CEO of the Community Woodlands Association said: “The coronavirus epidemic has been a challenge nobody wanted, but the wide ranging and effective responses of community bodies illustrated here demonstrates the value of community-owned land and assets in developing community resilience and underlines the importance of continued support for the expansion and development of the sector.”