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Welcome to the Scottish Community Land Network

This site is for people interested in the management and ownership of land-based assets by communities in Scotland. A Scottish Community Land Network, you might say... As you know the internet is a big 'place' with everything about anything so we brought you relevant news and events, and provide opportunities to share ideas with other people interested in this subject. There are almost 1000 members, and more than 800 articles in our archive.

 

Scottish Community Land Network will not be kept up-to-date after March 2012. However, a new site is being produced by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and details will be published on this site as soon as they are available.

The most recent articles are available on the home page - previous articles are in their relevant topic areas (browse the 'Topics' menu on the left).

Antlers - a case study in cheesecake

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A drizzly, tadalafil treatment midge infested morning didn’t seem an auspicious start to a visit to Jura.  But, try for sale with one arm frantically waving around my head in the universally recognised ‘West coast wave’, I dashed into Antlers, the latest addition to the Jura scene.

Antlers building at CraighouseHoused in a recently re-painted building, with freshly installed decking outside, Antlers adds a modern touch to a traditional building that sits in the heart of Craighouse. Inside, the Jura Development Trust has set up a restaurant, a crafts area and the beginnings of an interpretation resource.  

The array of crafts at the back of the restaurant caught my eye, so whilst I awaited the arrival of my morning coffee, I debated the goodies on offer.  Enjoying the midgie respite, I picked up a brightly coloured watch strap, then dropped it back down in an instant as flashbulbs popped and cameras whirred behind me.  Nervous that I’d set off some high security anti-theft device, I turned round slowly, keeping my hands clearly in view.

But no-one was interested in me or the watch strap…..the cameras were focussed on a stunning platter of food and a freelance journalist was snapping away in the hope of selling an article to one of the weekend broadsheets.  I was quickly muscled aside as a perfectly prepared cheesecake took centre stage, gently back-lit by watery sunlight filtered through a bottle of Jura whisky.

When the paparazzi buzz finally settled down and I appeared to have missed the chance to get my paws on the cheesecake, I caught up with Elaine Campbell, the development officer for the Jura Development Trust.  Over a much needed coffee, she explained that the Antlers project has been funded by a mix of cash from the Lottery (Growing Community Assets), LEADER, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Moffat charitable trust and others.  Before the first stone had been moved, the project had already cost nearly £50,000 – a frightening indication of just how hard, and how important, the feasibility and planning stages can be.  Now that the building has finally opened, the catering side is leased as a business on a three year contract, whilst the Trust retains responsibility for the crafts and interpretation aspects.  

Inside the AntlersLike all big projects, it’s not been simple and the Trust struggled to bank roll the project through the mire of retrospective grant claims.  Local contractors proved remarkably understanding of delayed payments, but this is such a frequent problem for projects that it surely can’t be beyond the wit of the world to come up with a more community-friendly solution?  Keeping the balance between the three sections of the building is going to prove tricky as well, although, to be fair, I guess the paparazzi aren’t always taking over the place in a search for new angles on venison salad.

From a ‘Community Land’ perspective, one of the most encouraging things to hear about was the value of some of the networking and exchange visits that took place before the project got going.  Elaine rattled off a string of island groups that members of the trust had spoken to during the planning stages – showing that networking and the exchange of experiences can help avoid the same lessons being learnt again and again.  That’s what we hope that sites like SCotLaNd can also provide - a place for people to exchange ideas, problems and solutions for future projects and activities.  

That exchange of knowledge seems particularly important given how much is learnt in the delivery of each project.  As Elaine pointed out, she’s now pretty experienced in building and construction, but, if the Trust doesn’t take on any more buildings projects, will she use those skills again?  If we’re serious about building community capacity, we may need to recognise that the ‘community’ might be wider than we think and that what’s learnt in one geographical area can and should be used elsewhere.

She also filled me in on the background to the trust – set up in 1997, with an open membership that currently takes in about 80% of the island’s adult population.  In common with many other organisations, the Trust took a few years to find its feet, but now seems to be sailing full steam ahead with not just the Antlers project, but a passenger ferry (see previous article) and the installation of some additional moorings and pontoons in Craighouse.

For now though, the Trust are enjoying a well earned stock take as Antlers settles in and they consider future strategies.  So whilst I eyed up the, by now much photographed, cheesecake (well, they surely couldn’t sell it now, and it would just go to waste otherwise….), Elaine headed back up the road to ponder their next project.  

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