THOUSANDS of hectares of vacant and derelict land across Scotland will be transformed through a £50 million programme as part of a “green recovery” from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Scottish Government said the investment in 11,000 hectares of unused land will help meet climate change targets and promote the health, wellbeing and resilience of communities.

Sites to benefit will see affordable housing, woodland and other green spaces created, or low-carbon commercial and industrial developments.

The investment follows recommendations from the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce, which was set up in 2018 between the Scottish Land Commission and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

READ MORE: Scotland's wasteland: Blueprint to transform derelict land

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said: “This new £50 million programme will help to transform Scotland’s vacant and derelict land as part of a green recovery that supports all communities.

“Scotland currently has more than 11,000 hectares of registered vacant and derelict land which offers significant potential to be brought back to positive use to the benefit of communities.

“By prioritising such sites, and protecting our existing natural capital, we will ensure that future infrastructure investment goes into areas where it is needed the most, revitalising communities, town centres, and promoting 20-minute neighbourhoods.

“The policies and proposals in the Climate Change Plan update set us on the right path to deliver our net-zero target by 2045. Importantly, it highlights the need for a place-based approach, with the involvement of communities and individuals, to get us there.”

The Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce spent two years working to transform the existing approach to bringing such areas back into productive use.

Taskforce chairman Andrew Thin said: “Land is central to achieving Scotland’s targets for climate change, wellbeing and the economy.

“Scotland’s legacy of derelict land reaches into all communities, but these sites could provide much-needed green space, growing space, community facilities, housing or businesses.

“This fund demonstrates the Scottish Government commitment to bringing these sites back into use to deliver multiple benefits for both communities and the economy.

“Those communities that are most affected by derelict land are also those that have been hardest hit by Covid-19. Seeing urban land as a reusable resource, one that can be brought back into viable life to the betterment of local communities and the wider economy, will help to create a greener and fairer recovery for Scotland.”

The Conservatives have called for more ambition and criticsed the delays in bringing forward the plans by the SNP.

Scottish Conservative Environment Spokesperson Liz Smith, said:“Bringing vacant land back into use is not just important for rebuilding our economy but also for tackling the blight that derelict sites can be in communities.

“However it has taken the SNP two years to get to the point of making this announcement with the policy being delivered over the next five years. We need to see more ambition here.

“The Scottish Conservatives would make redeveloping brownfield sites an infrastructure priority as we focus 100 percent on our economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.”

Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie has called for communities to be handed a say over what the £50 million fund is used for.

He said: “Transforming vacant and derelict land could help make our communities safer and healthier places and create space for important community facilities and, particularly in rural areas, much needed housing.

"It’s essential that councils and local communities themselves are given a direct say in how this money is spent.”