Langholm Initiative
Langholm Initiative

South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has used a debate in the Scottish Parliament to praise the work of Langholm Initiative, as the biggest ever community land buyout in southern Scotland was legally completed.

The Initiative bought more than 5,200 acres of moorland from Buccleuch last year for £3.8m and has now taken ownership of more land of similar scale after raising £2.2m.

Colin highlighted in the debate how Tarras Valley Nature reserve were already working on the restoration of the moor in partnership with the Woodland Trust. However, he warned that future community buy-outs in Scotland were at risk from large parts of Scotland being bought by so-called ‘Green Lairds’ – big businesses who want to own land for forestry to offset their carbon footprint.

Speaking during a debate on forestry in the Scottish Parliament, Colin Smyth said: “Labour not only wants to see a significant increase in trees to meet timber demand but supports the Woodland Trust’s call for at least 50 per cent of all woodland expansion to be through native species.

“It is essential that we do more to ensure that future cultivation and tree planting is carried out carefully in the right soils, using the right methods, or we will fail to maximise our carbon storage from forestry.

“There are many examples of excellent projects doing just that, such as the Tarras valley nature reserve in the Eskdale valley, where the community raised an astonishing £6 million to fund a community buyout of 10,000 acres of Langholm moor.

“The community’s vision and plans for the moor are truly inspiring and include action to play its part in tackling the nature and climate crises through peatland restoration.

“With community support from the Woodland Trust, native woodland will be expanded and the ancient woodland will be restored.

“Ownership matters. One of Labour’s concerns is the rise of the so-called green lairds. Scotland’s largely unregulated land market has allowed companies to buy huge swathes of that land so they can claim that they have green credentials by offsetting their carbon.

“Many of those purchases take place off market in secret private sales, which prevents communities from seeking to register an interest in that land, and, of course, land-price inflation often makes community ownership impossible, even if the community were able to register an interest.”

Speaking after the debate, Colin Smyth added: “Langholm Initiative really hit the road running with their ambitions to realise the massive potential the Reserve has. The team led by Jenny at Tarras Valley Reserve are showing what can be done when it comes to restoring our natural environment and are a great example to other communities.

“The total buy-out is a truly outstanding achievement by the team behind the bid and fantastic for the Eskdale community. This is the South of Scotland’s largest ever buyout and the community of Langholm really are history makers.

“We cannot underestimate the positive impact this has on the local economy through eco-tourism and the boost it gives to the local environment through better protection and enhancement of a site of special scientific interest.

“Too much of our land is still in the hands of far too few but thanks to this deal, we have made a step in the direction of righting that wrong and I’m really excited by the aim to go even further.”

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