Land Reform Review Group report – a golden opportunity

Land Reform Review Group report – a golden opportunity
June 2014

This briefing has been prepared by the Scottish Community Alliance, Community Woodlands Association, Development Trusts Association Scotland, Community Land Scotland, and Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.

We have an interest in supporting communities across Scotland to secure sustainable futures, where control of land and other assets is central to their ability to become more confident, productive, resilient and self-sustaining.

We strongly welcome the recent publication of the Land Reform Review Group Report: ‘The Land of Scotland and the Common Good’ as a thoughtful, comprehensive and coherent report, providing the rationale and agenda for action to achieve greater fairness and social justice in Scotland.

Key ideas and principles

The report contributes centrally important ideas and principles to the land reform and wider community asset owning debate in Scotland and offers a rationale for change.
Underpinning those ideas is the concept of the ‘common good’ which is defined in terms of: the wellbeing of society as a whole; enriched participatory democracy; inter-generational and international environmental sustainability; economic success; greater social justice and the achievement of human rights.

Key principles in the report include:

Land is a finite and crucial resource and should be used and owned in the public interest for the common good

Land and wider asset ownership is, therefore, not just a matter of private interest, but requires the balancing of private rights and interests with the public interest and the common good

Human rights considerations extend beyond ECHR to, for example, Article 11 of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural

Rights which gives everyone the right to an adequate standard of living and continuous improvement of living conditions

The question of ownership of land can be the key determinant in the use to which land is put, and debate about land reform cannot be limited to questions of land use alone.

The concentration of ownership of land in Scotland places significant power and influence in relatively few hands, which can have huge impacts on the lives of local people and jars with the idea of Scotland being a modern democracy

More diverse land ownership patterns would open up increased economic and social opportunities, the achievement of which would be in the public interest and would help contribute to the greater common good

A key underpinning principle in developing future land policy should be the participation of people in land governance at all levels

These are very strong ideas of principle which provide a coherent rationale for the subsequent detailed policy recommendations the report makes on specific measures.

Action now needed

We urge the Rural Affairs Climate Change & Environment Committee considering the report `The Land of Scotland and the Common Good’ in its short current inquiry to welcome the report, endorse the direction of travel, and encourage the Scottish Government to adopt the detailed recommendations.

The forthcoming Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill provides a vehicle for advancing a number of the recommendations about community ownership of land and other assets, and we encourage its use for early progress on key recommendations.

Felix Spittal
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Fairways House, Fairways Business Park
Inverness, IV2 6AA
Tel: 01463 258 800