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Empowering Communities to own Woodland

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing with Carol Evans, Woodland Trust Scotland Director, members of Arkaig Community Forest and Forestry Commission Scotland, highlighting how communities can empower themselves through purchasing or leasing woodlands on the National Forest Estate.

Promoting community empowerment through the new Community Asset Transfer Scheme (CATS) was behind Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing’s visit to Loch Arkaig today (Friday 28 April).

Mr Ewing visited the former Forest Enterprise Scotland woodlands at South Loch Arkaig and Glenmallie, which were bought by Arkaig Community Forest and Woodland Trust Scotland in December 2016.

The purchase was one of the last under the National Forest Land Scheme, which has now been superseded by CATS.

Mr Ewing said:

The Scottish Government is committed to seeing ownership of land increasingly devolved to communities.

“The National Forest Land Scheme, which helped 31 communities to own over 10,000 acres of land, was exemplary in delivering this commitment to community empowerment and asset transfer.

“I am pleased to say that we are now building on those achievements and the successor scheme, the Community Asset transfer Scheme, is very much part of the Scottish Government’s vision to strengthen the connection between the people of Scotland and its land and forests.

“I am pleased that this new scheme will extend to more communities across Scotland further opportunities to become stronger, more cohesive and more resilient.”

The new CATS scheme, which is now open for applications, gives communities the opportunity to purchase or lease land or buildings from the national forest estate to deliver greater local benefits.

Arkaig Community Forest Chairman, Gary Servant, said:

“We are very proud to host the Cabinet Secretary’s visit to Loch Arkaig today.

“Our message to other communities is to take full advantage of the new Community Asset Transfer Scheme, to have confidence that you are best placed to make decisions about the assets on your doorstep, and to understand that agencies such as Forestry Commission Scotland will support you with this.”

Woodland Trust Scotland Director, Carol Evans, said:

“We want to see this special place established as a benchmark for the regeneration of both its native woodlands and the local land-based economy.

“It is wonderful to see that the new CATS scheme will continue to create such opportunities. I hope our work in partnership with Arkaig Community Forest will inspire others.”

Forest Enterprise Scotland is also working with the Scottish Government and rural public bodies to share best practice and opportunities for working together to support community empowerment.

An independent Evaluation Panel, with forestry, community and environmental expertise, has been appointed to advise on community proposals.

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