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Scotland’s self-help revolution: Community buyout projects take the lead

EnvironmentScotland's self-help revolution: Community buyout projects take the lead
Scotland is undergoing a self-help revolution, with local communities taking charge and purchasing derelict and underused spaces for community projects. This movement is empowering communities and revitalizing neglected areas, creating safe and welcoming spaces for residents to come together and thrive.

Empowering Communities Through Buyout Powers

The Scottish parliament introduced buyout powers in 1999, allowing local communities to acquire derelict properties and unused land for a variety of purposes, including village shops, play parks, community centers, and even a film set for war movies. This initiative has been particularly impactful in deprived neighborhoods, where community-led buyout projects are breathing new life into neglected areas.

Rise in Community Ownership

The impact of community buyout projects is evident from the significant rise in community-owned properties in Scotland. Data from the Scottish government shows a substantial increase in community ownership, with 754 places under community ownership by the end of 2022, compared to only 85 in 2000. These properties are managed by more than 500 community groups, showcasing the widespread adoption of the community buyout model.

Revitalizing Local Spaces

Communities across Scotland have demonstrated the diverse applications of buyout powers, with initiatives ranging from the purchase of a community shop in Shetland to the reopening of a cinema in South Ayrshire. These projects not only rejuvenate local spaces but also contribute to preserving community assets and fostering a sense of belonging among residents.

Fostering Inclusivity and Diversity

The community buyout movement in Scotland extends its reach beyond local residents, embracing inclusivity and diversity. Projects such as the Granton community garden in Edinburgh have become melting pots of culture, involving individuals from diverse backgrounds, including migrants and refugees. These spaces provide a platform for cultural exchange and collaboration, exemplifying the transformative power of community-led initiatives.

Support and Funding

The success of community buyout projects is attributed to the support and funding provided by governmental and non-governmental organizations. The Scottish Land Fund, with an annual budget of £10 million, has been instrumental in facilitating community buyouts, providing financial assistance for the acquisition and development of community-owned properties.
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Impact of Legislation and Legal Frameworks

Scotland’s unique approach to community buyouts is underscored by legislation that grants communities first refusal on the purchase of land or buildings. This nuanced approach balances the public’s rights over private property with legal tests to ensure that buyouts are in the public interest and enjoy significant local support. This legal framework has laid the foundation for a community-led revolution in Scotland, empowering residents to take control of their surroundings and shape their collective future.


The community buyout revolution in Scotland is a testament to the power of grassroots initiatives in driving positive change. By empowering local communities and fostering inclusivity, these projects are not only revitalizing neglected spaces but also creating vibrant and welcoming environments for residents. As the momentum of the self-help revolution continues to grow, Scotland is paving the way for community-led development and redefining the relationship between communities and the spaces they inhabit.

Reviving Communities Through Community Land Ownership

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the significance of community-led initiatives, particularly in economically disempowered areas. Communities in Scotland have harnessed the power of collective action and reclaimed control of their local assets through community buyouts and ownership, injecting new life into once-neglected spaces. This resurgence of community land ownership has not only revitalized the physical landscape but has also fostered a renewed sense of pride and unity within these communities, propelling them towards a brighter and more sustainable future.

The Impact of Community Land Scotland

Community Land Scotland (CLS) has served as a driving force behind the resurgence of community land ownership in Scotland. Their commitment to empowering communities to take ownership of land and buildings has spurred transformative changes, enabling locals to breathe new life into underutilized spaces. The organization’s efforts have not only reinvigorated these spaces but have also fostered a stronger sense of communal ownership and pride.

Challenges Faced and Government Support

Despite the remarkable progress in community buyouts, challenges persist, particularly in securing adequate financial support from the government. The unfulfilled pledges to double the land fund pot to £20 million annually have hindered the expansion of community buyouts. However, despite these obstacles, there has been a surge in interest from communities, especially in deprived urban areas, reflecting a deep-seated desire to drive positive change from within.
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Some of Scotland’s Best Buyouts

The success stories of community buyouts serve as a testament to the transformative power of communal ownership. The Pyramid at Anderston in Glasgow, originally a church, was revitalized into a vibrant community center following its purchase by local residents. Similarly, the Machrihanish airbase, acquired for a nominal fee, has been repurposed to accommodate air services and car rallies, showcasing the potential for rejuvenation through community ownership. The heartwarming tale of Cardowan park in North Lanarkshire exemplifies the determination of locals to preserve their heritage. Their intervention prevented the auction of a play park built on an old colliery pithead, leading to the establishment of Cardowan Community Meadow, a wildlife-friendly park financed through community buyouts. Another exemplary success is the conversion of the Old Police Station in Langholm into affordable and energy-efficient homes for rent. This initiative, facilitated by Dumfries and Galloway council, embodies the potential for community ownership to address housing concerns and foster sustainable living.

The Path Ahead

The surge in inquiries received by CLS amid the COVID-19 crisis illustrates the growing momentum behind community buyouts. The resounding success stories of rejuvenated spaces and preserved heritage underscore the profound impact of community ownership. As communities continue to strive for self-sufficiency and revitalization, it is imperative for the government to honor its commitments and provide steadfast support to fuel this grassroots movement.


The resurgence of community land ownership in Scotland epitomizes the unwavering spirit of communities to reclaim control of their local assets and shape their own destinies. The tales of revitalized spaces and preserved heritage stand as a testament to the profound impact of communal ownership. As these communities forge ahead with their remarkable endeavors, it is vital for the government to stand alongside them, providing unwavering support to propel the community-led revitalization to even greater heights.
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