The following article about the proposed Wanlockhead buyout was published on the Lanark and Carluke Gazette last week.
Wanlockhead residents want to see business development, heritage tourism and environmental restoration in and around their village if a future buyout of land currently owned by Buccleuch Estate succeeds.
Villagers have released a community consultation report, highlighting their initial aspirations and visions for the area, drafted by volunteers over the last four months.
It follows calls for better management of Wanlockhead’s assets to improve villagers’ quality of life and promote a more sustainable community. The research was the product of several community workshops and from dozens of ideas submitted by residents to the Wanlockhead Community Trust, which is researching potential buyout schemes under the recent Land Reform (Scotland) Bill.
Lincoln Richford, Chair of the Community Trust, said: “This locally generated report provides decision-makers with a useful blueprint of possibilities for the future if we are successful in negotiating a land buyout. A majority of locals who commented were very clear that they want to move forward with a buyout and that they want a village that is economically sustainable and secure for their families.”
In it, residents highlighted five important categories: tourism development, village and community services/amenities, sustainable energy, agriculture and forestry/conservation. Many emphasised the need to capitalise further on local assets such as the Southern Upland Way, the ski-slope and the village’s extensive lead-mining heritage.
Said James Mckelvey, owner of the Wanlockhead Inn, “A buyout would be good for our village and for local business if we can increase tourism here through improved recreational and outdoor opportunities. We need to continue to pull together as a community on this one.”
The research also stressed the need for better marketing of the town’s heritage for tourism.
Locals also advanced ideas ranging from the development of a community visitor centre, a local store and a community garden to play facilities and the construction of a Scottish Sheep Centre.
Pursuit of a community buyout follows existing legislation under the recently passed Land Reform Bill (Scotland) 2016. Next steps for the community will include meeting with Buccleuch Estate to begin exploring buyout options and drawing up a “feasibility study” with the Scottish Government for various development ideas and buyout options for the area. In 2017, there will be a local ballot initiative on whether or not the village should move forward on pursuing a land buyout. “The Wanlockhead buyout is closely monitored by the Scottish Government and by land reform supporters across the country as it is the highest profile buyout so far in the south of Scotland and the first buyout that Scotland’s largest landowner, the Duke of Buccleuch, has ever had to consider,” said Lincoln.
Land reform in Scotland is currently supported by all political parties in the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish Government currently has a target to achieve a million acres of land in community ownership by 2020. Last week there was an announcement regarding a new potential community buyout in the Highlands of the Rio Tinto estate in Lochaber, which with 125,000 acres would be the biggest community buyout ever in Scotland.
In the meantime, the Wanlockhead Community Trust will be organising more public meetings regarding the buyout process as well as community fieldtrips to other villages where successful buyouts have occurred.
The Trust recently arranged a successful public outing to the Mull of Galloway, the site of a previous successful land buyout conducted by the Mull of Galloway Trust in 2013.
It will be orchestrating a similar fact-finding trip to the Isle of Harris this autumn. Locals are urged to get involved by becoming members of the Wanlockhead Community Trust and attending the Trust’s monthly meetings. The community consultation report can be downloaded from the Trust’s website at http://www.wanlockheadcommunitytrust.org/images/Wanlockhead-Community-Consultation-Report---Stage-1---July-2016.pdf