Community right-to-buy scheme 'failed'

A handful of organisations have bought land since Scottish legislation was introduced five years ago

A law intended to help transfer land into the hands of community groups in Scotland has been labelled a failure by campaigners five years after it was introduced.

The community right-to-buy legislation, part of the Land Reform Act, is intended to give local communities the right to register for first refusal whenever land in their area comes up for sale.

But it has led to only five organisations successfully buying land since it was introduced.

Andy Wightman, author of several books about land ownership in Scotland, said the act was hamstrung by bureaucracy.

"The amount of work needed just to apply is quite onerous and even if the application is drawn up successfully, the central government in Scotland still has something like 20 separate decisions to make," he said.

"Even if you do register an interest, you have to wait until land comes up for sale, then raise the money to buy it at market rate."

Angus Hardie, director of Local People Leading, a campaign group for community organisations, said there was relatively little knowledge among local communities that the act existed.

"There's been very little publicity since the act came out," he said. "And there's been very little help given to communities who want to apply."

It was hard for community organisations to register an interest because it required organisations to decide in advance what land they wanted to acquire, said Hardie.

"Community organisations tend not to be proactive," he said. "We'd like to see the act give local organisations the chance to register an interest when land comes up for sale, not years before."

The Scottish Government was unable to comment before Third Sector went to press.

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