Statement from Wanlockhead Community Trust Concerning Inaccurate Comments by Buccleuch Group's CEO on the Wanlockhead Buyout

The Wanlockhead buyout was initiated almost two years before the news of a potential windfarm in the area were revealed by The Herald.

Wanlockhead Community Trust is the community-owned body responsible for the development of a community land buyout of the Wanlockhead area according to the stipulations of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. Our role is strictly to articulate and advance the vision of the local community towards a positive and sustainable future for the village of Wanlockhead, where critical decisions that impact the community are taken by the community for the benefit of the community.

Wanlockhead Community Trust has been in direct discussions with Buccleuch Estates since 2016 regarding a potential transfer of ownership of land from the Duke of Buccleuch to the village of Wanlockhead. In the interest of all parties concerned, Wanlockhead Community Trust has strived to keep negotiations with representatives of Buccleuch Estates in a constructive, flexible and positive spirit. Where disagreements arise, like in any other negotiation, the appropriate channels for direct and discrete discussion must be used.

Wanlockhead, one of the south of Scotland's most iconic destinations, is often featured in the media. The buyout, being considered by many as southern Scotland's highest profile community land buyout, is obviously an important part of village life. Wanlockhead Community Trust often receives requests for comment on Wanlockhead-related matters.

Following a recent article about the village in the national press, Wanlockhead Community Trust has received several requests to clarify a number of statements quoted by Buccleuch Group's CEO.

For the sake of transparency and accuracy, Wanlockhead Community Trust wishes to make the following statement:

1. The current community land buyout initiative in Wanlockhead can be traced back to 2013 when a number of community groups, including the Village Council, started to hold regular meetings with Buccleuch Estates regarding a potential buyout of areas of land in the village.

2. In 2014 several villagers attended the buyout public meeting in Leadhills which led to the creation of the Leadhills Community Company in June the same year.

3. By mid 2014 buyout talks with Buccleuch had stalled following changes in the management of the Estate as well as in the Village Council.

4. In late 2014 Wanlockhead residents decided the way forward on the buyout project was to create a community body like the one recently incorporated in Leadhills. Volunteer members of the community spent a year learning about community buyouts and meeting with a range of stakeholders, including the Scottish Government's Right to Buy and the Scottish Land Fund; the experience gained by the Leadhills buyout was greatly valuable to the Wanlockhead group.

  

5. In June 2015 the local communities learnt through the press, thanks to a Freedom of Information investigative piece, that Buccleuch Estates were working on plans to create one of Scotland's largest windfarms over Wanlockhead and Leadhills.

6. In January 2016 a public meeting in Wanlockhead confirmed the village's intention to channel buyout efforts through a Trust, which was incorporated in December the same year, and was one of the first community bodies in Scotland to be fully compliant with the new statutes of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016.

7. In Spring 2016 a community consultation was carried out for all members of the community to identify the areas of land that the Wanlockhead Community Trust should pursue as part of the community land buyout project.

8. Meetings with Buccleuch Estates followed in 17 August 2016 and 11 October of 2016 to discuss the potential transfer of land to the community. Buccleuch was asked several times to kindly provide details of Buccleuch ownership in the area to allow Wanlockhead Community Trust to formally register an interest on the land according to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. Buccleuch representatives refused to provide such information.

9. Thanks to the financial support of the Scottish Land Fund, since Spring 2017 a business plan for the buyout area is being prepared for Wanlockhead Community Trust by a team of specialist consultants. The business plan will serve as a blueprint for a sustainable community-owned Wanlockhead. Buccleuch refused to provide data of existing land business activities in the Wanlockhead area, which would have given the local community an accurate insight into the current viability of the Estate's management of the land.

Conclusion:

Contrary to recent quotes in the press, the Wanlockhead buyout was initiated almost two years before the news of a potential windfarm in the area were revealed through an investigative article in the Sunday Herald.

Therefore, the buyout in Wanlockhead precedes Buccleuch's news of a windfarm project for Wanlockhead.

Wanlockhead Community Trust sees no issue confirming that over the past four years of buyout there has been a gradual development of ideas, proposals, expertise, and members of the community leading the project. We are confident Buccleuch will see no issue either admitting that over the past two years alone there has been four different estate managers having each to familiarise themselves with the aspirations of the community and learn to catch up with village matters.

The above may explain inaccurate statements such as (Wanlockhead's community right to buy application) "is still some way off from being applied for". We are pleased to confirm that, despite lack of cooperation from Buccleuch Estates, the first applications to register a right to buy land around Wanlockhead were submitted to the Scottish Government in 23 May 2017.



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