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The role of community landownership in improving rural health in Scotland
A long history of economic, social and political inequality in rural Scotland has led to a vastly unequal pattern of rural landownership, contributing to the social and economic fragility of rural communities. Over the past thirty years there have been attempts to mitigate or counter these effects through community landownership (CLO), whereby an elected board of local residents govern the use of land in the interests of the local population, taking decisions on land uses based on their needs. Early evidence of the effects of community landownership suggests that the 'intervention' can act upon determinants of health and reduce social inequalities, empowering individuals and communities to affect change within their circumstances. In recent years, there have been calls for policies governing both health and land reform to be explicitly based around increasing access to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, thereby aligning the strategies and goals of each and implying that furthering land reform could improve rural health. This thesis investigates the connections between community landownership and rural health and considers how, and for whom, this intervention could affect health in rural communities in Scotland. Two substantive pieces of work comprise this thesis. First, a qualitative study of diverse perspectives on community landownership develops a conceptual understanding of the causal pathways through which community landownership could affect rural health. Second, a Q Methodology study assesses perspectives of the residents of a community-owned estate as to the relative role of community landownership in improving health within rural communities. The findings of this study indicate that community landownership alters power relations in rural communities and may act as an antecedent to other health-related interventions, but has little intrinsic health benefit. Health effects, both positive and negative, are dependent on the ongoing management and governance of community-owned estates in line with the needs of local people. These findings can help to inform future development of research, policy and practice within the broad fields of rural health, land reform and community development.