South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth believes that a successful community bid for Langholm Moor could pave the way for more community ownership across the South of Scotland.
The local MSP was commenting after a visit to the Moor this week with Wild Eskdale Project Manager Kevin Cumming.
Two community groups are currently considering bids for a part of the Moor after Buccleuch Estates announced its intention earlier this year to sell off about 25,000 acres of its estate in South West Scotland, which includes Langholm Moor.
Buccleuch Estates opened a consultation on the sale of the land on 30 May with a view to putting the land on the market in August if there was no registered interest. After groups two communities – Langholm and Newcastleton- expressed an interest in different parts of the land, the Estate has agreed to extend the initial period for bids until March next year. Colin Smyth believes this should be extended further if need be to allow the community to develop a detailed bid for the land given that they would also have to secure significant funding.
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “This really is a great opportunity to bring the Langholm Moor under community ownership and we need to do all we can to support that. It is a spectacular site of special scientific interest literally on Langholm’s doorstep and is already well used by the community and visitors alike, including being one of the best places in the country for hen harriers. I know groups in Langholm and Newcastleton are working round the clock to prepare bids for different parts of the site and they have my full backing.
“Too much of Scotland’s land is still the hands of too few. A community buy out would not only put ownership in the hands of the local community but would be the best way to safeguard the natural and cultural heritage of this beautiful landscape. At the same time it will open up new opportunities to provide a real economic boost to the area by developing eco tourism on the site, attracting more people to a part of our region all too often overlooked and under promoted”.
“I’m pleased Buccleuch Estates extended the initial timetable for bids and I hope they will be flexible in allowing sufficient time for community bids to be developed for what is a complex process. I also hope any bid will be given the full support of the Scottish Land Fund through grants. Although around 560,000 acres of land in Scotland have been subject to community buy-out, only 800 acres are in the south of Scotland. Those have been the subject of community buyout such as Castle Loch in Lochmaben and the Mull of Galloway have been a huge success. I hope Langholm Moor is one of the next. A successful community buy-out of the Moor could paves the way for more across the South of Scotland.”