South Scotland Labour MSP has pressed the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, to give a possible community buy out of the Langholm Moor her full consideration.

The call comes as initial indications from the Langholm Initiative show that the price of a community buy out could exceed the £1 million threshold from the Scottish Land Fund. Any grant that exceeds £1 million for a community buy out must be approved by Scottish Ministers.

Colin Smyth recently toured the Moor with Kevin Cumming from the Langholm Initiative to learn about the opportunities that a community buy out could have for the local community end economy and the protection that could be guaranteed for people who currently live on the Moor.

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 said, “A community ownership bid for the Langholm Moor could bring huge benefits to the local community and economy in an area which has suffered a number of economic shocks. It would open up new opportunities to provide a real economic boost to the area by developing eco-tourism locally, attracting more people to an area all too often overlooked and under promoted when it comes to tourism. It is also a site of special scientific interest on Langholm’s doorstep and is already well used, including being one of the best places in the country for hen harriers, so the potential is huge under the right ownership.

Across our region we have seen the positive difference that can be made when local people are given the ownership of the land that surrounds them to create jobs and open access. The Langholm Moor is no different which is why Scottish Ministers should give the proposal their full consideration, and I hope ultimately their full support, should a bid be made over the next few months.

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 help safeguard the natural and cultural heritage of this stunning landscape.

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