Community Landownership Academic Network


Community landownership is an endogenous approach to sustainable development which has gained significant attention over the past thirty years. The mechanism has grown and developed from its roots in rural Scotland to having become a flagship policy of successive governments, forming a central tenet of the Land Reform and Community Empowerment agendas, and supported by significant legislative and funding support.

Despite having been extended to urban communities, these mechanisms have arguably had, and continue to have, the greatest impacts in rural settings where communities have taken over the management and governance of entire estates. Ownership has resulted in the devolution of funding and decision-making levers to the local level, empowering communities to pursue development priorities driven by, and accountable to, local residents. This is especially powerful in communities in the Highlands and Islands region, where centrally-conceived national policy may not be appropriate or relevant to diverse and differentiated community needs.

The impacts of community landownership can be transformational for such ‘remote’ and island communities, with recent research illustrating the effects on service provision, rural health and climate action. UHI has been at the forefront of investigating and promoting this topic throughout its existence, with staff and students across the partnership remaining prominent in research, teaching and knowledge exchange. While research in this field is becoming more widespread, it remains somewhat fragmented, reactive and lacking in coordination or strategic direction.

The Community Landownership Academic Network (UHI CLAN) was launched in 2021 in order to strategically organise the future of research in the field through a formal network structure. From the outset, the network sought to integrate with community landowning organisations themselves, seeking to serve the sector through conducting relevant and necessary research, the findings of which will be communicated in accessible ways. The formal aims of the network are:

  • To coordinate community landownership research across Scotland and beyond through a strategic and collaborative approach;
  • To expand and improve research activity, building a critical academic community to develop the field as a formal sub-discipline;
  • To integrate research and teaching activities related to community landownership across the UHI partnership;
  • To communicate, promote and publicise our research, teaching and impact to internal and external audiences, providing a central point of contact and inviting opportunities for knowledge exchange;
  • To affect change in local communities and government policy, through action research, knowledge translation and direct routes to impact.

The network seeks to collaborate across disciplines and universities, embracing a multifaceted disciplinary and methodological approach to filling gaps in knowledge from different angles. In order to devolve and decentralise responsibility for these different approaches, individuals can volunteer to lead sub-groups focusing on particular aspects of the field. To date, the sub-groups comprise:

  • Urban community landownership
  • Arts/literature/poetry (methodologies)
  • History/archiving
  • Teaching and student integration
  • Law and human rights
  • Community Forestry
  • Archaeology and heritage
  • Food and agriculture
  • Participatory research methodologies
  • Gaelic
  • Community energy

For more information, to be added to the mailing list, or to discuss sub-themes, please email To stay up to date with events, meetings, research and other topics of interest, follow @UHI_CLAN on Twitter.