MORE communities are rallying round to help save Scotland's ecclesiastical heritage and make the most of a growing number of redundant churches, experts have said.

Now groups of friends, neighbours and local organisations are being offered the chance to find out how to pool their resources and help raise funds to breathe life back into empty or underused churches that are often "iconic" elements of Scottish cities and landscapes.

Read more: Cherished church is first city project to benefit from right-to-buy power

Experts are gathering in Glasgow today for an event designed to guide communities on how to tackle taking over such historic buildings, with many already being restored for a wider range of uses other than worship including as a concert venue and for attracting tourists.

The move is part of a push by lobby group the Built Environment Forum Scotland, Scotland's Churches Trust, Scottish Redundant Churches Trust and the Prince's Foundation to save the country's churches as more become redundant.


St Margaret's Church in Braemar, above, is an example undergoing regeneration by the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust to turn it into an internationally-renowned performance and arts venue in the centre of the beautiful Cairngorms National Park.

It is a nationally-significant Victorian gem that was bought for £1 and now a tourist attraction and music venue but the overall task of taking it on means the community and trust have to raise £2m for its renovation and upkeep.

Read more: Cherished church is first city project to benefit from right-to-buy power

The former Episcopal church was designed by architect and stained glass designer Sir John Ninian Comper, the acclaimed Gothic Revivalist whose ashes are buried in the north aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey, near a series of windows he had designed.


Victoria Collison-Owen, executive director of the Scottish Redundant Churches Trust, said that churches are often the final focal point for people after the closure of pubs and other community hubs.

She said: "The church would be the last public gathering place and we’ve definitely seen a trend in rural communities where they say 'hang on where are we going to get together?'.

"A number of them are taking really direct action.

"We are also seeing it in urban areas as well and the first community right-to-buy being exercised and the community taking on a church at Portobello."

In that case, a Edinburgh community group become the first organisation in an urban area use such powers to buy a former church.


Action Porty moved to take over the former Portobello Old Parish Church and change it into a multi-use community hub and was awarded £650,000 from the government-funded Scottish Land Fund towards the purchase.

Ms Collison-Owen added: "The purchase price is a drop in the ocean compared to maintaining, upgrading and repairing these building which because of their age can be quite expensive."

Read more: Cherished church is first city project to benefit from right-to-buy power

She said: "Whilst our interest is first and foremost in the preservation of the heritage of the building, the community interest is what can that building do for them.


"It is not just inside the building but also how these buildings are part of streets, part of our landscape, and there are such iconic church buildings that it would be a tragedy to lose them."

The organisations are hosting the £15 event at the Keeping Church Buildings Alive at Renfield St Stephen's Centre today.

Church and architecture experts will provide advice on fundraising, business planning, ways to engage the local community with the project, putting together an education programme and how to use social media to promote the project.