Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has visited Castle Loch in Lochmaben to find out more about the Castle Loch and Community Trust’s successful bid to bring the Loch and neighbouring cottage under community ownership.

He was accompanied by Scottish Labour Spokesperson for Land Reform Claudia Beamish and Infrastructure, Connectivity and Transport Spokesperson Colin Smyth, both South Scotland MSPs and Local Councillor for Annandale North Ward, Adam Wilson.

Scottish Labour, under the leadership of Richard Leonard, is committed to developing a programme of radical social and economy reform leading to a redistribution of power and wealth.

Richard Leonard said, “I was delighted to come to Lochmaben to learn about this excellent project, its inception, development and future plans.

I want to pay tribute to members of the local Trust and everyone involved in bringing the Castle Loch and Lochfield Cottage under community ownership and for developing plans to enhance what is a stunning area.

Land ownership and the distribution of wealth it represents is crucial to the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of all those who live in Scotland.

Land justice is a Scotland wide issue. Communities across Scotland, both rural and urban, are increasingly interested in ensuring their future is in their own hands. Land reform is not at all limited to the Highlands and Islands. There is a real appetite for community ownership here also.

It is essential that there is advice support for communities. This must be from the stage of expressing an interest in specific pieces of land and buildings, through the buyout process, and importantly beyond this, as communities continue to develop their regeneration visions and inclusive plans for the future.

Scottish Labour is forging plans for a more just land future and this visit will help inform the development of our policies.”

Darren Flint, Castle Loch Project officer said, “The community ownership of Castle Loch has gone from strength to strength since the buyout in 2014. Volunteers form the backbone of all the works that happen around the 3-mile walk, donating over 1000 hours each year to keep the paths in good order for people and the habitats tiptop and brimming with wildlife. We always enjoy welcoming interested groups to the site to find out more about what has been achieved in just 4 years and help spread the word for successful community ownership in Scotland.”

Colin Smyth MSP said, “I am delighted that Richard is back in Dumfries and Galloway for what was his third visit to our region just a few months after being elected as the new Scottish Labour Leader. The work of the Trust is a fantastic example of local people coming together to improve our community and it’s great that we can share these success stories with senior politicians at a national level and help shape future policy. This visit emphasises Richard’s determination to build a Scottish Labour Party that stands up for all of Scotland”.

In addition to the visit to Castle Loch, Richard carried out a private visit along with Colin Smyth and Adam Wilson to Dryfesdale cemetery to lay a wreath at the Lockerbie Garden of Remembrance to commemorate the 30th anniversary since the Lockerbie bombing and to the opportunity to thank the volunteers who run the Dryfesdale Lodge Visitors Centre.

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