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A Consultation on the Future of Land Reform in Scotland

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Executive Summary

1. The Scottish Government has welcomed the overall message and direction of the Land Reform Review Group's report, The Land of Scotland and the Common Good, published in May this year. As part of our on-going commitment to land reform and as part of our response to the report, we are taking forward commitments to:

  • improve the transparency of land ownership in Scotland by working towards a target to complete the Land Register for the whole of Scotland within 10 years, with registration of all public sector land in 5 years;
  • improve and extend existing community rights to buy, through the current Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill that, if passed, will allow urban communities to exercise a right to buy and will introduce a new community right to buy for neglected or abandoned land;
  • develop a strategy to achieve our target for 1 million acres in community ownership by 2020, setting the blueprint for a dedicated resource for community ownership within the Scottish Government in line with recommendations for a Community Land Agency;
  • extend the Scottish Land Fund over the 2016-2020 spending period; and
  • bring forward a Land Reform Bill within this Parliamentary term.

2. This consultation seeks views on a range of measures intended to further land reform in Scotland. The Scottish Government is proposing a Land Rights and Responsibilities Policy to help guide the development of public policy on the nature and character of land rights in Scotland and a range of proposals for a Land Reform Bill designed to:

  • Demonstrate long term commitment to land reform: by setting up a Scottish Land Reform Commission to underpin land reform, by providing the evidence base for further land reform measures and assessing the impact of existing policies.
  • Improve the transparency and accountability of land ownership: by (a) making public sector information on land, its value and ownership readily available to support open and transparent decision making by both the private and public sectors; and (b) limiting the legal entities that can, in future, take ownership of land in Scotland.
  • Address barriers to sustainable development and begin to diversify patterns of land ownership: by providing powers for Scottish Ministers, or other public bodies, to intervene in situations where the scale or pattern of land ownership in an area, and the conduct of a landowner, is acting as a barrier to sustainable development.
  • Demonstrate commitment to effectively manage land and rights in land for the common good: by (a) facilitating proactive management of public sector land in the wider public interest by extending the powers of Forestry Commissioners; (b) placing a duty of community engagement on charitable trustees, when making decisions on land under the trustees control; and (c) to end the business (non-domestic) rates exemption for shooting and deerstalking and bring these businesses back into line with other ratepayers who help fund local services
  • Address specific aspects of land ownership and rights: by (a) further modernisation of Common Good to promote greater flexibility on use and remove the need for references to the Courts; (b) to improve deer management legislation; (c) to take forward legislative changes required in light of the upcoming recommendations of the Agricultural Holdings Review on the future of tenant farming; and (d) on public access, to make clarifications to the core paths planning process as set out in Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

How to respond

3. We would like to hear your views on our vision for a Land Rights and Responsibilities Policy and the proposals we have set out for a Land Reform Bill. This paper covers a wide range of complex issues and we appreciate there is a lot to consider.

4. The proposed Land Rights and Responsibilities Policy and the suggested proposals for a Land Reform Bill are a package of measures. By balancing action in all these areas we can provide a basis for future land reform. However, we appreciate some people will have a particular interest in certain areas. We would encourage you to respond to any or all of those parts where you feel you have a contribution to make.

5. We also welcome your views on the potential impacts of these proposals. Throughout the development process we have been considering the potential impacts the Bill may have. We believe a range and balance of measures will promote positive social, economic and environmental impacts.

6. We will carry out a full Equality Impact Assessment and Business Regulatory Impact Assessment and Privacy Impact Assessment on the Land Rights and Responsibilities Policy and on the proposals to be contained in a Land Reform Bill. We will also consider the potential environmental impacts of any proposals and if a Strategic Environmental Assessment will be required.

7. We welcome your thoughts on the potential impacts, both positive and potentially negative, of any of the ideas in this paper and questions have been included at the end of the consultation paper for this purpose.

8. The consultation runs until 10 February 2015. A 10 week consultation will allow us to ensure your views are taken into account in order to introduce a Land Reform Bill in the next Parliamentary year. Annex C sets out a number of ways you can respond to this consultation paper, including online here at the Scottish Government website. Annex D contains the Respondent Information Form, please do not forget to include your Respondent Information Form, your response cannot be accepted without it.

9. We look forward to hearing from you.

You can respond online on the Scottish Government website.
You can respond by email by sending your response to LandReform@scotland.gsi.gov.uk
You can also respond in writing, by sending your responses to the address below:-

Land Reform Team
B1 Spur,
Saughton House
Edinburgh
EH11 3XD