COP26: Indigenous leaders, Scottish Highlanders unite in land reform campaign

Tighnabruaich, UK, Nov 8 (EFE).- The struggle to reclaim land has united Indigenous leaders and Scottish Highlanders at the United Nations COP26 summit in Glasgow.

Although separated by thousands of miles, both communities feel deprived of their own land, which in the Global South is hawked out to mining, oil and logging companies and in Scotland to investment funds, corporations and wealthy landowners.

In a friendship ceremony this week, representatives of Indigenous communities and Highlanders planted an oak tree in the village of Tighnabruaich as a symbol of their alliance in the shared struggle to reclaim land for the people and the campaign to tackle the climate crisis.

“From the experience today from meeting all the indigenous leaders, it has been really moving (…) I think it has solidified our motivation and our inspiration to continue the fight both for land reform and for climate justice,” Mary Lou Anderson, a coordinator at Kilfinan Community Forest, based near Tighnabruaich in western Scotland, told Efe.

In Scotland, 67% of the land is owned by 0.025% of the population, Calum Macleod, policy director at Community Land Scotland, told Efe, adding that community land ownership accounted for 2.5 to 3% of ownership.

“Scotland has, if not a unique, certainly a very unusually concentrated pattern of private land ownership,” he said.

The native inhabitants of the Highlands were driven off their land in the 18th and 19th centuries in what was known as the Highland Clearances. Landowners, or “lairds” in Gaelic, took over swathes of land to farm sheep.

A study shared at the COP26 showed that Indigenous people and local communities hold some 958 million hectares of land around the world but have access to less than half — just 447 million hectares.

The report, elaborated by the Rights and Resources Initiative, the Woodwell Climate Research Center and the Rainforest Foundation US, added that this territory in 24 countries includes 60% of the world’s tropical forests.

Due to a lack of legal recognition, Indigenous communities are left exposed to the damaging effects of deforestation and the exploitation of 130 million metric tons of carbon contained in the landscapes.

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