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A Consultation on the Future of Land Reform in Scotland

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Ministerial Foreword

Aileen McLeod

The Scottish Government's vision is for a strong relationship between the people of Scotland and the land of Scotland, where ownership and use of the land delivers greater public benefits through a democratically accountable and transparent system of land rights that promotes fairness and social justice, environmental sustainability and economic prosperity.

This vision builds on Scotland's experience of land reforms that have sought to develop land rights in Scotland in a way that better reflects the public interest and modernises the nation's relationship with land. Examples of previous progress demonstrate that land reform measures such as statutory rights of access, the community right to buy, and abolition of feudal tenure have changed our relationship with land for the better delivering benefits for all, whether this be in urban or rural Scotland.

This Government has continued to progress the land reform agenda through a wide range of measures such as the modernisation of land registration through the Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012, converting ultra-long leases to ownership under the Long Leases (Scotland) Act 2012 and introducing proposals to Parliament within the current Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill to improve community rights to buy and introduce a new community right to buy abandoned and neglected land.

In addition to these specific measures, and appreciating the importance of land reform to our vision for the future of Scotland, we also committed in our 2011 manifesto to establish an independent review of land reform in Scotland. The Land Reform Review Group published their report The Land of Scotland and the Common Good in May this year. I would like to share my thanks to the review group for such a broad ranging and considered Report, which will help inform and guide this Government's on-going commitment to land reform in Scotland, and commitment to a range of further land reform measures including bringing forward a Land Reform Bill.

2014 is a significant year in Scotland's history, with heightened public engagement in the democratic process and demand for change. Land reform and the actions we take on land reform, form part of our future. This fuels one of this Government's key aspirations: to move the debate on land reform from one previously focused on historic injustices to a more modern debate on the balance of land rights that best delivers for the people of Scotland.

This is why we are consulting on a Land Rights and Responsibilities Policy Statement, in which we set out a vision and principles for land rights in a 21st century Scotland. I hope this statement will stimulate positive dialogue and ensure that land reform is not an event but a continuous process. As part of a package of potential proposals for a Land Reform Bill, and in response to the Land Reform Review Group's recommendation, we are also proposing a Land Reform Commission to be tasked with developing the evidence base for future land reform, supporting public debate and holding successive governments to account.

If Scotland were starting afresh we would not be designing the pattern of land ownership we see today. Our aspiration is for a fairer and more equitable distribution of land in Scotland where communities and individuals can own and use land to realise their potential. Scotland's land must be an asset that benefits the many, not the few.

At the same time no single bill or action any government takes will see this pattern change overnight. As the Land Reform Review Group report emphasises, land reform is a long term process that will involve a range of measures over time. I believe the proposals set out in this consultation lay the foundation for future action on land reform and are vital next steps in Scotland's land reform journey.

This next step needs to be taken in the context of a conscious public debate about land and the public interest, and how land in Scotland works for the people of Scotland. Therefore, this is not simply a consultation for those in society with strong existing interests in land, but one in which I would hope all of civic society will engage.

I look forward to hearing your views and ideas during this process of consultation and as we take this land reform agenda forward.

DR AILEEN MCLEOD MSP
MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT, CLIMATE CHANGE AND LAND REFORM