Professor Jim Hunter
My championing of the cause of Aigas Community Forest stems from my longstanding conviction that communities, whether in the Highlands and Islands or elsewhere in Scotland, ought to be encouraged and helped to take ownership of land and other assets in their vicinity.
Over the last twenty or so years, many Highlands and Islands communities have taken this step. The results have everywhere been positive. Jobs have been created, new homes have been built, businesses have been established and, in many instances, the wider population has benefited from the introduction of more people-friendly, as well as more environmentally-friendly, sorts of management.
And there is a further gain that comes with community ownership – one that, though hard to measure, is of huge importance. Everyone involved when a community takes on, and makes a go of, a piece of land or forestry gains new skills as well as a new confidence in their own abilities – with beneficial results that extend way beyond the management of the land or forestry in question.
We hear a lot from politicians, not least from the UK’s new coalition government, about making people at a local level more responsible for the wellbeing of their communities. The people involved in the Aigas Community Forest initiative are anxious to have exactly this sort of responsibility. I am certain they are more than capable of exercising it. That is why they have my backing – and why, I trust, they will get all the other backing they both need and deserve.
Professor James Hunter CBE FRSE
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