4. Data Issues
The current database used to produce the Estimate of Community Owned Land in Scotland publication has a number of issues. It was initially compiled by collecting data from a wide range of organisations involved in community land ownership, this includes Highlands and Island Enterprise; the Big Lottery Fund; the Development Trusts Association for Scotland; and Community Land Scotland. This approach was taken as it is not possible to identify community groups that own land from existing registers. The Scottish Government is working to address these issues and improve the quality of the data currently held on community ownership. In order to do this a survey of all the community groups, known to the Scottish Government, to own land parcels/assets is being carried out. Further information on this is given in Section 5. Going forward, the data that will be collected on new land parcels/assets that are either purchased by community groups or are transferred to them will also be improved, with all the required information being collected at the outset.
The main issues with the current database on community ownership are:
- The area of the land parcels/assets;
- The location of the land parcels/assets; and
- The date of purchase or transfer of the land parcels/assets.
As purchases or transfers of land parcels/assets into community ownership can be lengthy processes some land parcels/assets currently included in the database may not actually have been in community ownership as at June 2017. This will result in an overestimate of the area of land in community ownership at that time. The majority of these purchases and transfers will be completed so the area of land will then be in community ownership and will count towards the target of having one million acres in community ownership by the end of 2020.
These land parcels/assets were included in the database as they were included in one of the administrative dataset supplied by one of the four organisations involved in community ownership. The land parcels/assets were included in one of the databases as a community group were in the process of completing the purchase or transfer. Further information on the data sources are given in Section 8.1. This data issue should also be rectified by the survey of all the community groups known to own community land that is being undertaken.
It is also acknowledged that there will potentially be a number of land parcels/assets, especially smaller land parcels/assets and those that have not received public funding, for example those bequeathed as legacies, in community ownership that are not known to the Scottish Government. Therefore, these land parcels/assets and any area associated with them will not be included in the estimate of community owned land. This will result in an underestimate, which cannot be quantified, in the area of land in community ownership.
With the aim of having one million acres in community ownership by end of 2020 it is important that accurate information on the area of each of the land parcels/assets is recorded. Of the 492 land parcels/assets 73 (14.8%) have a recorded area of zero acres. While for a further 16 (3.3%) land parcels/assets the entry for area is missing. Many of the land parcels/assets that have no area associated with them could be existing buildings that were purchased or transferred into community ownership. As a result the community groups may not have thought to identify the land area associated with the building. It is also possible that when information on the land parcel/asset was initially collected the area was either not known or was not recorded. In a small number of cases the land parcels/assets may not have any area. For example, if the asset was a mode of transport such as a community owned bus or ferry.
As 18.1% of the land parcels/assets currently recorded have no area attached to them this will likely result in an underestimate of the area in community ownership. It is not possible to quantify the potential level of underestimation in the area of community owned land. The average area figure for the land parcels/assets that have an area could be used to estimate the missing area but doing this will be unlikely to give a good estimate of the missing area. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of land parcels/assets with missing areas will be existing buildings with small areas associated with them. Although, there could also be a small number of land parcels/assets with a much larger area, such as community woodlands.
As the area of these missing land parcels/assets is established this will affect the time series for the area of land in community ownership. As a consequence updated data will be released in the relevant Estimate of Community Owned Land in Scotland publication or tables release.
When looking at the community owned land parcels/assets at geographies below a Scotland level, in most cases the address and postcode that is currently recorded is for the community group itself. This may be different from the address(es) and postcode(s) of the land parcel(s)/asset(s) itself/themselves.
This could potentially mean that land parcels/assets could be located in different sub‑national geographies compared to the address of the community group. It is not currently possible to quantify what, if any, effect that will have on the distribution of sub‑national data between the different geographies.
This lack of individual location data at a land parcel/asset level is the reason the data have not been broken down by the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification. The actual location of the individual land parcels/assets is required to categorises them using this geographic breakdown. In future years, when improved geodata are available consideration will be given to releasing the data broken down by the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification.
If any of the land parcels/assets move sub-national geographies as a result of their actual locations being recorded as opposed to the location of the community group itself, the changes to the sub-national geographies will be detailed in the relevant Estimate of Community Owned Land in Scotland publication or tables release.
4.3 Purchase or transfer date
Currently the year of purchase or transfer is unknown for 101 (20.5%) of the 492 land parcels/assets, which account for 19,914 acres in community ownership. The purchase or transfer date may be unknown for these land parcel/assets because they have been in community ownership for a long period of time, so that those currently involved in the group do not have exact records of when the land parcel/asset was purchased or transferred. Alternatively the date of purchase or transfer may not have been recorded when the record of the land parcel/asset was initially made known to the Scottish Government.
So that the area of these land parcels/assets can be included in Table 1 and Figure 1 without being classified as having an unknown purchase or transfer date, they have been defaulted to having a year of purchase or transfer of 1990. It should be noted that it is likely that area of land in community ownership in 1990 will be an overestimate as a result. Twelve land parcels/assets do have pre 1990 purchase or transfer dates. These land parcels/assets account for 92,244 acres (82%) of the 112,158 acres recorded as being in community ownership in 1990.
When the purchase or transfer dates of these 101 land parcels/assets are established, where possible, this will affect the time series for the area of land in community ownership. Any changes made to the time series as a result of the actual purchase or transfer dates being known will be detailed in the relevant Estimate of Community Owned Land in Scotland publication or tables release.