LAND is an explosive issue in Scotland and access to it has become even more of an issue during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, while much of the publicity around land reform is concentrated on public buyouts of large estates in rural areas, a small revolution is simultaneously taking place in urban places. Even in cities, projects such as urban crofts are helping people to reconnect to nature and their communities.

Now their stories are being collected in a new online hub to inspire others to make use of unused land or public buildings in their areas.

Examples include an urban croft in Glasgow where a disused tennis court, which had become a focus for anti-social behaviour, has been turned into a tranquil site of raised beds where people living in nearby flats can learn how to grow their own vegetables and herbs.

After cleaning up hypodermic needles and leasing the court from the local bowling club, community organisation South Seeds installed 24 raised beds which attract over 100 applicants each year. To qualify for one of the fertile beds, residents must live in flats no more than 20 minutes walk away.

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Once they have been allocated a bed, they then attend an induction given by an expert gardener who gives advice on what to grow. Spades and trowels can be borrowed from the tool library set up in a hub on Victoria Road where residents can also speak to energy advisers on how to cut their energy use and lower their bills.

“We have not bought any land or made a huge investment but we are giving people the chance to experience growing,” said Lucy Gillie of South Seeds. “We have cold frames where we can start off seedlings so you don’t need space at home. People can see what others are doing and there is a Whats App support group too. It brings everyone together so people get to extend their networks and make new friends.”

Other examples on the hub, which has been set up by the Scottish Land Commission, include After the Pandemic which is turning 3000 square metres of derelict land into a cultural park during the upcoming COP26 conference. The land, located directly under the M8 in the heart of Glasgow’s city centre, will be used as an outdoor exhibition space featuring dozens of organisations and will play host to live performances and interactive sessions on how land is – and could be – used.

“Derelict land in urban areas creates a sense of disconnect for communities,” said Anne Johnstone, After the Pandemic project manager. “Derelict land is part of the problem but in future it can offer a solution and we hope to engage people in conversations around how land is used.”

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Buildings are also part of the growing community takeover. When the Church of Scotland decided to sell Portobello Old Parish Church, residents came together to save the building and keep it in the community by taking advantage of the Scottish Government’s Community Right to Buy Scheme – the first time this was used in an urban area. More recently, residents of Portobello have taken additional land into the hands of the community after the City of Edinburgh Council accepted a proposal for community management of its local town hall.

“The way that land is used and owned in local areas is vital to the vibrancy and culture of the community,” said Jennifer Elliot, treasurer at Action Porty. “I know the way in which taking an active interest in the land around us can empower communities to take action and the benefits to Portobello have been astonishing.

“The content hub will inspire people in towns, villages and cities across Scotland to look closer at the land around them and see the potential for uses that benefit communities as it has done in Portobello.”

As part of the campaign, the Scottish Land Commission will be launching a new podcast, The Lay of the Land, hosted by filmmaker and broadcaster Calum Maclean which will explore what land means to people in Scotland.

Hamish Trench, chief executive of the Scottish Land Commission, pointed out that the way land is owned and used influences many parts of people’s lives including the local economy, the price and availability of housing and access to nature.

“MyLand shines a light on communities taking an interest in the land around them so that it benefits everybody,” he said.

“We hope that these stories inspire people to have a look at the land around them and stir interest to take action so we can create a Scotland where everybody benefits from the ownership, management and use of the nation’s land.”

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