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April 6, 2011

Land reform – time for fresh thinking

Addressing the recent Community Land Scotland conference, writer and researcher Andy Wightman dismissed the existing land reform legislation as completely unworkable and told the conference that it was time to think hard about how best to take their cause forward. In a new report commissioned by the Scottish Community Alliance, he sets out some provocative ideas which he argues would put land reform back on track

Recommendations contained in newly commissioned report – Land Reform, The Way Ahead
Download copy here

Scotland needs a coherent policy on land ownership, occupation and governance and a programme of land reform to achieve this. The following recommendations would, if adopted, achieve lasting change and provide the Scottish Government with a new framework within which to pursue land reform.

  1. Promote land reform as a unifying strand of policy that can help deliver existing policies on community empowerment, asset transfer, regeneration, housing, local governance and finance, and renewable energy.
  2. Introduce a land value tax and abolish business rates and council tax.
  3. Re-introduce Town Councils with statutory powers over planning, land, environment, finance and enterprise.
  4. Enact a new Common Good Act to improve the administration and management of common good funds and return them to local communities.
  5. Review local governance at parish level with a view to introducing new statutory governance along the lines of French municipalities or Norwegian kommunes.
  6. Expand community ownership of housing by community based housing associations and provide them with greater statutory powers and responsibilities for regeneration.
  7. Undertake a review of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 with a view to making it simpler to use and more flexible.
  8. Bring forward a Succession bill based upon the recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission giving legal rights to children to inherit land.
  9. Implement the recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission’s Report on Law of the Foreshore and Seabed.
  10. Review the governance of natural resources with a view to increasing local control and decision-making.
  11. Transfer statutory powers of Crown Estate Commissioners to the Scottish Parliament and local authorities.
  12. Relax planning laws to allow self-build of affordable housing.
  13. Review the policy for allocation of forestry grants to prioritise farm forestry, community forestry and individual small-scale forestry.
  14. Enact a Land Restitution Act to enable the restoration of common land rights.
  15. Place a cap on the level of agricultural subsidies and limit subsidies to one farm per farmer.
  16. Reform land registration legislation and the law on prescription.