The Life of John Lorne Campbell of Canna by Ray Perman

Turning the tide: Scotland’s new land owners

Lines in the sand on Canna

In recent years, communities in the Scottish Highlands and Islands have taken ownership of more than half a million acres – an area equivalent to that of an English county like Nottinghamshire or West Yorkshire. In places long characterised by contracting economies and shrinking populations, this remarkable development has resulted in new homes, new businesses, greatly enhanced self-confidence and the attraction of lots of new residents.

It is a movement which had not yet started when John Campbell was considering options for Canna in the 1970s, but protecting the community on the island was his priority when he gave it to the National Trust for Scotland. The 30 years since have seen nearby island and mainland areas like Eigg and Knoydart flourish under community control, whereas Canna’s population has been erratic and has now fallen to ten.

Jim Hunter, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of the Highlands and Islands, and former chairman of HIE, has written extensively about the north of Scotland and is a longstanding campaigner for land reform. His new book From the Low Tide of the Sea to the Highest Mountain Tops, provides the first comprehensive survey of an ownership revolution that is transforming the  Highlands and Islands greatly for the better.

The book is being launched at the Scottish Parliament next month, but is available now from the The Islands Book Trust. It is beautifully illustrated with 100 pictures by Skye photographer Cailean Maclean.