The land buyout ‘pioneers’ in south of Scotland


For many years, the Duke of Buccleuch has been one of Scotland’s biggest landowners. His holdings stretch for more than 200,000 acres across the south of Scotland.

Three communities situated in the estates are on the verge of historic buyouts.

Newcastleton, Langholm and Wanlockhead have applied to the Scottish Land Fund – a Scottish government scheme which funds community buyouts. They are being awarded as much as £1 million each.

However, each settlement is facing its own challenges to complete the purchases. The communities spoke to BBC Scotland’s The Nine.

Newcastleton

The community trust for the Borders village is within days of purchasing 750 acres (300 hectares) of land from Buccleuch Estates.

Holm Hill, which lies above the village, has been farmed by the community for generations.

Locals now hope to use the hill for renewable energy, leisure activities and further farming.

The village was awarded £850,000 by the Scottish Land Fund earlier this year.

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Barbara Elborn says the buyout was about “legacy”

Barbara Elborn, of Newcastleton and District Community Trust, said: “We are literally off the beaten track – 25 miles from Carlisle in the south and Hawick in the north.

“What we have here is what we make here. Nothing has ever been easy living here.

“There is more than a sum of money or a piece of land at stake. You do something like this because there is a legacy at stake.”

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Trust volunteer Greg Cuthbert wants to make Newcastleton a “better place”

Greg Cuthbert, a local mobile hairdresser, is a volunteer for the trust. He said: “It’s land that means something to the people of the community.

“It’s land that we think we can develop with a mixture of farming, solar power and new housing to repopulate the village.

“No one is going to come and help. We have to help ourselves. If we have our destiny in our own hands, we can make the village a better place.”

Langholm

Ten miles away, in Dumfries and Galloway, the Langholm Initiative is raising funds to purchase more than 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) from Buccleuch.

The community intends to use Langholm Moor for eco-tourism, scientific study and carbon capture from the peatland in the area.

However, a major barrier has been the price.

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The Langholm Initiative need to find another £4m to realise their dream

Despite an offer of £1m from the Scottish Land Fund and receiving a £500,000 donation last week, the town needs to find another £4m before the offer of funding expires in October.

Mhairi Telford Jammeh, who volunteers for the initiative, said: “Buccleuch Estates have owned this forevermore. It’s never been put up for sale before.

“For Langholm to get access to land and own land is quite unique in the history of the town.

“This is a very large buyout for the south of Scotland. And yet [the Scottish Land Fund] could only offer us £1m and that isn’t enough to get us over the line.”

Fellow volunteer Alice Hutton added: “At at the moment the time lines are so tight that we would probably have to rethink the whole project.”

Wanlockhead

Residents in Scotland’s highest village voted in favour of buying land around the settlement. Fifty-five percent of villagers supported the 4,000-acre (160 hectares) purchase.

On Monday, a price of £1.4m was agreed between the Wanlockhead Community Trust and Buccleuch Estates.

It means the village now has until Monday to make a submission to the Scottish Land Fund.

The fund will stop accepting applications on August 31. Since 2016, it has paid £35m to support nearly 200 community buyouts in Scotland.

It’s hoped the buyout will help sustainable tourism in the region.

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Anjo Abelaira runs the local ski club at Lowther hill

Anjo Abelaira is originally from Spain and runs the local ski club at Lowther Hill.

He said: “In every country, you have several layers of government – national, regional, local. I discovered there was a layer here, which is the landowner.

“If you are going to own a large amount of land, do you really have the capacity to be responsible for it and the demands of the people who live there?

“If you are not, how can you be held to account?”

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Jon Evans runs the Museum of Lead Mining in Wanlockhead

But the issue has divided locals, with some worried about taking on liability for old lead mines and contaminated land in the area.

Jon Evans, who runs the Museum of Lead Mining in the village, and resident Karen Morrison voted no to the buyout due to concerns about “liability” for contamination and potential landslips.

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“We are pioneers,” said Lincoln Richford

Lincoln Richford, chairman of the Wanlockhead Community Trust, said: “This will take some time but we have to show the people that voted that they too are empowered by this.

“This is about all the village. This is new in the south of Scotland, therefore it’s quite understandable that people are not sure what it’s about.

“We’re hoping this will be an example for other people in the south of Scotland. We are pioneers, in that sense.”



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