Power and community in Scottish community land initiatives

  • Timothy Herford Braunholtz-Speight

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


The early 1990s saw the emergence of a series of distinctive local initiatives in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Initially labelled “community buyouts” (and so counter posing them to the 1980s “management buyouts” of company shareholdings), they combined the creation of new place-based community organisations with the use of legal-economic means of power over resources – obtaining land ownership through purchase of rural estates – to pursue a wide range of goals. As the decade went on and the wider political context shifted, policy institutions followed (Watt 2012) and official support – advisory, technical and financial – helped grow this movement. Today,
community land initiatives (CLIs) – a commonly-used term to refer to any localitybased group that controls, or is considering control of, land in the name of the community – are found across Scotland. In some areas, particularly the Western Isles, they have become major landowners. They vary in size, activities and other characteristics. However, most are engaged in multiple activities in their areas, and are run as social enterprises with a locally-based membership.
There is a growing academic literature on community land ownership, which takes a variety of approaches. Some studies examine it through policy-related lenses, such as community resilience (Skerratt 2013), or sustainable development (McMorran et al 2013), sometimes focussing on an individual organisation (Didham 2007), or comparing multiple CLIs with other structures of land management (Glass et al 2013).
Some examine it in relation to understandings of community and crofting (Brown K 2007, Brown A 2008, Busby and Macleod 2010). Others draw on political and cultural geography, including approaches related to Foucauldian notions of discourse and resistance (MacKenzie 2012) or post-colonial theory (MacPhail 2002). The approach taken in this thesis is to use concepts of power and community to study the Scottish community land ownership movement. The thesis explores if, and how, community land ownership alters power relations. Such concerns are discernible in much of the literature referred to above; however, here the analytical framework is built around them directly.
Date of Award2 Jul 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SponsorsUHI Centre for Remote and Rural Studies
SupervisorPhilomena De Lima (Supervisor) & Sally Shortall (Supervisor)

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