ccsd.gif (1497 bytes)Dynamics
Home Up Challenges Dynamics South Africa Estate Plans NfP Insights Social Audit Joint Owners The Future Homeownership      

Social Land Ownership


Who Owns Scotland?
Land Reform
Land Reform Guidance
Commonweal Papers
Networks of Agents
Training of Trainers

The Dynamics of Partnership

A personal review of the workings of the Laggan Forest Partnership at the start of a new Millennium

Roy Tylden-Wright March 2000


bulletLet me introduce myself
bulletForest Enterprise’s Role
bulletCommunity Mentality
bulletFurther Information

Let me introduce myself

I was involved in the early stages of Laggan Forestry Initiative (LFI), was sidelined for a year when operations started and then resumed as Chairman of the Trust, and chief Executive of the Forestry Company. (It was thought at the time that these roles should be allotted to the same person: I am not sure that this is essential, though it clearly has advantages).

I have seen the shift from the aspirations of the campaign group LFI to the practical operation of Laggan Forest Trust Forestry Company (LFTFCo). Ultimately Practice has to serve Aspiration, but its servant may in turn modify Aspiration, and at times the two may be found on the backstairs shouting about evenings off and the state of the silverware.

For instance, how does one really square the concept of a voluntary community administration with the requirements of running a business with a turnover running into hundreds of thousands of pounds? The unpaid board of directors becomes responsible for the running of the company, and liable for its legal duties and financial undertakings. The directors take on roles such as cash-management and line management of staff: activities, which might well engross full-time executives. It is virtually certain that a part-time executive will be found wanting.

Nonetheless, they will be expected to perform like any management, attending meetings with funders and partners, arbitrating in disputes, monitoring activities, all of which costs them in working time, travel costs &c. Note this extract from a funder’s letter:

‘I also recommend that you discuss these matters with your Board of Directors. (Their bold print) Ultimately they are responsible under Company law for ensuring that the company maintains an adequate system of accounting records: failure to do so will render the Company and possibly individual directors, liable to penalties.’

Bear in mind also the complexity of the business. This is not the kind of commerce where you buy pins for a tanner and sell for half a crown: this involves extremely complex funding procedures often from multiple sources, with onerous monitoring requirements.

The directors are paid in the economy of Aspiration; minted as Community Achievements, yet all the time they may well be suffering personal financial hardship as a result of their contributions. Moreover, since their work is unpaid, it has no value – and this reflects very often in the attitude of paid professionals they will find themselves working with. Unpaid, and without the associated status of a prestigious and powerful organisation behind them, the community worker is consistently looked down on.

Forest Enterprise’s Role

This attitude, sadly, reflects the truth of the matter: the local organisation is impotent. In terms of the Laggan Partnership, the most junior wearer of the green fleece of Forest Enterprise (FE), has more real power than the Chairman of the Forest Trust. In effect therefore Forest Enterprise is the real executive of the Community Forest.

In many respects this system works. FE does of course possess all the necessary professional forestry skills, has considerable expertise in recreational infrastructure, and some in economic development. In Laggan’s case, FE has been extremely successful in putting together bids for funding and effective in seeing the projects implemented. It is moreover responsive to the requests of the community- within certain limits. Where FE has a general policy relating to forest use which is common to all its properties across Scotland: it cannot allow Laggan to be treated as an exception to this policy. Strathmashie is, after all, a Forestry Commission property.

The relationship between the two organisations is that of parent to child, or possibly of trustee/guardian to child. It is one of support coupled with control: it undoubtedly prevents the child from damaging itself too much, but possibly restricts its full potential. It may lead to declining levels of voluntary input since the scope for creation is always mitigated by what is acceptable to the senior partner.

Community Mentality

The other factor, which restricts these ‘creative dividends,’ comes from the community, or rather those who participate in the Forestry project but do not reciprocate. The Forest Trust, representing the community interest in respect of the development of the forest, comes to be seen as a provider, and those involved in contracting, as beneficiaries. This in literal truth is so: if the Forest Partnership did not exist this work would almost certainly not be available. If, however, the paid contractors see no need to participate personally in the communal process, then clearly a dangerous inequity is becoming established, and the volunteers are going to get seriously hacked off.

Hence, a further limitation on the potential of the project is internal: there is as great a need for local individuals to develop the culture of co-operation and reciprocity as there is for FE to develop one of community facilitation.


I feel that the pressures on the volunteer directors are unsustainable. If funding for a paid executive is not forthcoming, (and it is hard to see where it could come from since the company has no ability to generate revenues), I suspect that the project will contract and simplify to a situation where FE are the exclusive operational managers, but consulting with the Trust over the nature and direction of policy and practice. This reinforces the community’s dependency on FE’s expertise, and is by no means true empowerment, but it may be a pragmatic if restricted way to produce genuine local economic benefit. The danger is that it depends on the continued goodwill and perseverance of FE, when the inevitable tendency would be to revert to the former less locally accountable forest management practices.

On the other hand the full potential of such a project will only be realised if nurtured to full maturity – and then released to manage on its own, or perhaps indeed by a progressive devolution of responsibility. In order to do this; communities must develop not only effective administrations, but also a mature awareness of shared responsibility.

In Laggan, the success of the scheme can be put into context by comparison with the traditional land-owning economy. The Forest Partnership, which did not exist three years ago, is now one of the largest local employers. It is as if the landscape suddenly heaved and split to create a new estate of say, fifteen thousand acres – from nowhere.

This estate moreover has the potential, rather than being beholden to the owner alone, of harnessing the full ability of every individual involved. That collective potential, however, will only be realised if the nature of community co-operation is understood and absorbed. If it is not, it may be better to remain in a consultative role while the professionals get on with the job.

Further Information

Roy Tylden-Wright can be contacted at the following address:


Laggan PH20 1BS


(Tel: 01528 544 344)