A SOUTH of Scotland’s community buyout is set to go ahead following one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen.

The landmark community buyout saw Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway raising the final funds needed in the nick of time, to pay £3.8 million for over 5000 acres of land.

The agreement between The Langholm Initiative charity and Buccleuch, paves the way for the creation of a huge new nature reserve to help tackle climate change, restore nature, and support community regeneration.

Discussions will continue over the remaining 5300 acres of land the community has expressed an interest in buying.

Executive chairman of Buccleuch, Benny Higgins, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have reached a significant agreement with The Langholm Initiative, and this deal demonstrates what can be achieved when everyone involved is committed to working together. The community has done a tremendous job in raising the funds to make this historic acquisition, and the plan to create a nature reserve has attracted widespread support. We wish the project every success.

“Engaging constructively with the communities in which we operate as a business is important to us. We have a long-standing policy of reducing our overall footprint to enable us to invest in other projects, and will continue this policy of selling land to interested farmers, community bodies and organisations which express an interest.”

Chair of The Langholm Initiative, Margaret Pool, said: “This is an amazing result for Langholm which will live long in the memory. Our community has a strong cultural connection to this land, which has never been sold before, and securing it for generations to come means so much to so many. Huge thanks to Buccleuch for their positive engagement.”

The purchase – to be finalised by January 2021 – will lead to the creation of the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. The project will also support community regeneration, with plans to capitalise on new nature-based tourism opportunities.

The Langholm Initiative had until October 31 to raise the funds for a deal, to avoid the Scottish Land Fund withdrawing its offer of £1 million support. In the run-up to the deadline, Buccleuch Estates and The Langholm Initiative agreed a revised £3.8 million price for the purchase.

In the final 48 hours before the deadline, and with the community still £150,000 short of the total funds needed, The Woodland Trust agreed to contribute £200,000 to the project – taking The Langholm Initiative over the line.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, said: “The completion of The Langholm Moor project is a momentous moment for land reform in Scotland. The project secured a £1 million Scottish Land Fund grant in June, and it is of great testament to The Langholm Initiative that they have secured additional funding, and worked collaboratively with Buccleuch Estates, to bring 5000 acres of land into community ownership. I commend both The Langholm Initiative and Buccleuch Estates for enabling the buy-out to be completed.

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has also welcomed the buyout: "This is a significant step forward in achieving greater diversity of land ownership across Scotland, a key aim of Scottish Government’s land reform policy," said chairman Christopher Nicholson.

"In recent years Langholm residents have publicly expressed their concerns over aspects of land use in the area, in particular the expansion of commercial Sitka Spruce plantings and the future of tenanted hill farms. This landmark community buyout will now allow local residents to decide how the land is best used for the community.

"We understand that a number of tenant farmers in the Langholm area are currently in negotiation with Buccleuch Estates to buy their holdings, and we would urge Buccleuch agents to engage constructively with those tenants to enable the purchases to take place."