Report Recommends Comprehensive Land Reform in Scotland

Report Recommends Comprehensive Land Reform in Scotland
Land Reform Review Group
23.05.14

A major new report into the future of land and property across Scotland has called for significant reforms to ensure that the way land is owned and used puts the public interest first.

Produced by the independent Land Reform Review Group, which was set up by the Scottish Government in 2012, the report recommends a range of measures to make it easier for urban and rural communities to have influence or control over land in their area.  

The group’s 62 recommendations, published today (Friday 23 May 2014), include:

• Improving the recording and transparency of land ownership, whether public or private
• Modernising existing compulsory purchase legislation and allowing certain public bodies to have ‘first refusal’ on land for sale if that is in the public interest
• Removing the role of the Crown Estate Commissioners in managing Scottish land and transferring its powers to Scottish Ministers
• Creating a Compulsory Sale Order for vacant or derelict land in urban areas in particular
• Imposing an upper limit on how much land a private land owner or single beneficial interest can own in Scotland
• Phased introduction of non-domestic rates for agricultural, forestry and other land-based businesses
• Encouraging more self-builds and creating more secure tenancies to help address housing availability
• Improving rights for crofters, small-holders and tenant farmers
• Overhauling the governance of salmon fishing and making changes to how deer hunting and culling is managed

The report also makes several recommendations relating to improving the understanding and administration of land ownership and use, including setting up a Scottish Land and Property Commission to oversee this on behalf of the government and creating a Community Land Agency to increase community ownership through facilitated negotiation.

Dr Alison Elliot, who chaired the review group, said: “Our current systems of land ownership and management are not yet fit for the 21st century, with changes over the years often being occasional and piecemeal, even where the political will existed to tackle this area.

“The wellbeing of our economy, environment and society all depend on land. This is true whether we are talking about remote islands or inner cities, and it is an issue that affects everyone from farmers to high-rise residents.

“What we need to see is policy and decision-making taking greater account of the public interest, opening up land ownership to more people and giving communities more influence over land use. There are weaknesses in the market, and contradictions in public policy, that must be addressed if we are to see the kind of reforms that will modernise Scotland’s approach to land ownership and use.

“Our recommendations aim to move that process forward, with a range of radical measures that we hope will inspire the Scottish Government, and everyone with an interest in Scottish land, to seize the opportunity and improve how we deal with this most important resource.

“On behalf of the group, I’d like to extend our thanks to the hundreds of contributors from across Scotland who lent us their time and most valuable insights during the composition of this report.”

The report has been submitted to the Scottish Government and can be viewed at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00451087.pdf

The members and advisers of the Land Reform Review Group are:

Members

• Alison Elliot (Chair)            former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
• John Watt                          Chair of Scottish Land Fund Committee
• Ian Cooke                          Director of the Development Trusts Association Scotland
• Pip Tabor                           Project Manager of the Southern Uplands Partnership

Special Adviser

• Robin Callander                Independent Specialist Adviser

Advisers

• Professor David Adams    Ian Mactaggart Professor of Property and Urban Studies, University of Glasgow
• Amanda Bryan                  Rural and Community Development Consultant
• Malcolm Combe               Lecturer in School of Law, University of Aberdeen
• Simon Fraser                    Solicitor, Anderson MacArthur, Stornoway
• Priscilla Gordon Duff        Partner, Drummuir Estate
• Richard Heggie                 Director, Urban Animation
• Donald MacRae                Chief Economist, Lloyd’s Banking Group Scotland
• Professor Jeff Maxwell     former Director of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute
• Dr David Miller                  Research Leader, James Hutton Institute
• Bob Reid                           former Convenor of the National Access Forum
• Agnes Rennie                    Chair of Urras Oighreachd Ghabhsainn
• Dr Madhu Satsangi           Head of Housing Studies, School of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling