Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Gibson questions HIE over land unit

News release
Immediate release


Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands has gained assurances from HIE that it remains strongly committed to both its Community Land Unit and community land buy outs.

On Wednesday morning (during Scottish Government budget scrutiny) the Holyrood Economy energy and Tourism Committee heard from acting CEO Sandy Brady that community land buy outs can contribute to regional competitiveness and that HIE has flexible funding available should major new buy outs arise. Even though HIE meets only a fraction of the total cost which has been paid by the National Lottery since the land fund was created.

The Big Lottery has indicated that there have been fewer buy out applications since 2006 [ 11 from the HIE area to date] compared to the 82 funded for land and buildings from 2001 to 2006 at £12.4 million.

When asked by Mr Gibson Sandy Brady denied that there was any loss of momentum in supporting applications that had been lodged.

Speaking after the Committee hearing Rob Gibson said,

"There is an urgent need for the Big Lottery to deliver support for the Embo football team in their bid to turn Skelbo forest into forest crofts."

"When I quizzed HIE they did not agree that the Community Land Unit was acting as a gate keeper for the Big Lottery but is doing its best to promote sound applications it receives."

"Statistically in this phase of land buy outs it is important to note that 32 of 91 grants made by the Big Lottery involved applicants who had previously received a grant under the Scottish Land Fund (before 2006).

Mr Gibson revealed that he has previously sought clarification from the Big Lottery as to their attitude to community land buy outs from their Scottish chair Alison Magee.

He said,

"She assured me in a conversation at the Sutherland Summit six weeks ago that there was no change of emphasis from the approaches of the Scottish Land fund into the era of Growing Community Assets (GCA) post 2006. Community activists were quoted recently as saying the there was a 'lack of momentum' due to Scottish Government disinterest. My analysis of this phase of land buy outs and development suggests that these criticisms are inaccurate."

"I will be monitoring progress with great care. If communities feel aggrieved then I need to know. However the availability of £18 million still to be allocated from the GCA Fund before mid 2010 suggests that land buy out applications should be stepped up to test the system."


1 comment:

Catriona Ross said...

Hello. Can you give any insight into why there seem to be so many obstacles in the way of people wanting to live sustainably on the land? Getting a plot of land in rural Scotland is extremely difficult unless you are fortunate enough to already own land. Communities trying to buy forested land under the National Forest Land scheme are struggling to raise the cash.
This is a good blog and well done on that but can you put an RSS feed on it to alert followers to updates?