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Scotland and Islandness

Explorations in Community, Economy and Culture


Edited By Kathryn A. Burnett, Ray Burnett and Michael Danson

Scotland’s islands are diverse, resourceful and singularly iconic in national and global imaginations of places «apart» yet readily reached. This collection of essays offers a fascinating commentary on Scotland’s island communities that celebrates their histories, cultures and economies in general terms. Recognising a complex geography of distinct regions and island spaces, the collection speaks to broader themes of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, narratives of place and people, the ideas and policies of island and regional distinctiveness, as well as particular examinations of literature, language, migration, land reform, and industry. With a view to placing ideas and expressions of islandness within a lived reality of island life and scholarship, the collection provides a multidisciplinary perspective on the value of continued and expanding research commentaries on Scotland’s islands for both a Scottish and an international readership. 

This book should instantly appeal to scholars of Island Studies, Scottish Studies, and Regional Studies of northern and peripheral Europe. Readers with particular interests in the sociology and history of Scottish rural and northern Atlantic communities, the cultural histories and economies of remote and island places, and the pressing socioeconomic agenda of small island sustainability, community building and resilience should also find the collection offers current commentaries on these broad themes illustrated with local island examples and contingencies.

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Chapter 8 Community Land Ownership and Sustaining Scotland’s Islands: Lessons from the Western Isles (Calum MacLeod)



8.Community Land Ownership and Sustaining Scotland’s Islands: Lessons from the Western Isles

In recent years land reform has re-established itself as a mainstream issue on Scotland’s public policy agenda. Much of the impetus for that re-emergence lies in Scotland’s unusually concentrated pattern of private rural land ownership, of which 67% is calculated as being owned by 0.025% of the population (Warren 2009). That pattern of concentrated land ownership is said to act as a structural barrier to local sustainable development as a consequence of its negative monopolistic effects on the distribution and exercise of economic and social power within communities experiencing such ownership monopolies (Danson 2019; Glenn et al. 2019).

A distinctive feature of Scotland’s land reform journey has been the emergence of community land ownership as an alternative model to private or state ownership to further sustainable development. In turn, Scotland’s islands have provided a focal point for that expansion in community ownership from the buyouts of Eigg and Gigha in the 1990s and mid-2000s (Hunter and MacLean 2012) to the more recent community buyout of the Isle of Ulva in 2018 (Guardian 2018). The Western Isles have proved especially fertile ground for the expansion of this new ownership model, given that these islands collectively contain around two thirds of the 209,810 hectares of Scotland’s land currently in community ownership (Scottish Government 2019).

This chapter analyses the emergence of community land ownership as a means for delivering sustainable...

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