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August 1, 2012

Land reform back on radar

The long overdue review of land reform policy was announced last week.  The First Minister tells us we can expect a radical rethink – there’s even an expectation that the right to buy will extend to urban communities.  Perhaps working on the principle of keeping your enemies close, Professor Jim Hunter, a long standing critic of current policy, has been appointed to the review group. Land reform campaigner, Andy Wightman, argues the proof of the pudding will be when the group’s full membership and remit is made known.


Extract from Andy Wightman’s Blog 

Today, the Scottish Government announced the establishment of a “Land Reform Review Group” that will oversee a “wide ranging review of land reform in Scotland”. If this happens it will be very worthwhile.

However, the remit and membership of this group are yet to be agreed with Scottish Ministers and it is unclear how wide the remit will be. If it is simply to undertake a technical review of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, it will be of very limited value when the real issues concern inflated land values, affordability of housing, succession law, tax avoidance, secrecy, absentee landlordism, theft of common land, land registration laws, common good etc. etc. etc.

Whether any of this gets looked at depends on two things.

The definition of the term “land reform” and the remit for the group. Let’s crowdsource ideas on both of these. Please leave comments at on :-

1. a definition of land reform and

2. a remit for the Land Reform Review Group.

My interview on Radio Scotland Newsdrive at 1750, 24 July 2012.


Article by Robbie Dinwoodie, The Herald, 25th July

URBAN communities are in line to benefit from land buyouts after the Scottish Government announced plans for a radical rethink of the policy.

First Minister Alex Salmond yesterday set up a new expert panel, chaired by former Kirk moderator Dr Alison Elliot and including in its ranks a critic of this Government’s rate of progress on the issue, Professor James Hunter.

Part of the Land Reform Review Group’s role will be to show how it would benefit people from the remote communities which have bought out their land already, to those living in towns and cities who want to reclaim brown field sites.

Iain Cooke, of Development Trusts Association Scotland, which has championed causes such as Inverclyde Community Development Trust, the bid to reclaim Moffat Town Hall, and the Castlemilk Stables project in Glasgow, said: “This should be something that is open to all com- munities – sustainable and com-munity-led development. The principle of communities taking control should be universal.”

The issue of land reform has traditionally been seen as one for the Highlands and Islands, prompting activists to recognise that spreading recognition of the benefits and principles will advance the cause more generally.

Mr Salmond said after the Scottish Cabinet meeting in Skye: “Land reform is an important part of Scotland’s story. From the Crofting Acts of the 1880s and 1890s to the more recent right-to-buy legislation and support for community land purchase, significant progress has been made. 

“We cannot underestimate the crucial part land reform will play in contributing to the future success of Scotland for the next generation. By improving the relationship between our land and people, we can create stronger communities and deliver the economic growth and fairer society the people of Scotland quite rightly expect.”

He added: “I want this review to deliver radical change for both rural and urban areas, developing new ideas which will improve current legislation as well as generating even more innovative proposals.”

Dr Elliot said: “I want to take a look at all the opportunities that exist to promote more communities taking control of their future by taking control of their land.”

Her joint deputies will be Professor Hunter and Dr Sarah Skerrat, with 10 advisers to be appointed soon to look at possible legislative needs.

Mr Hunter said: “I am very pleased to have been asked as I have a long-standing involvement in this area.”

He has been a strong critic of the way politicians of all parties have failed to carry through on land reform since the first legislation was carried in the first term of the Parliament.

David Cameron, chairman of Community Land Scotland, the body representing previous buyouts, said: “The terms of reference appear to be broad as this will allow scope for the group to examine radical action that will help advance the cause of securing further change in land ownership across Scotland.

“The review can learn from the success of the land reform that has already taken place over recent decades and help plan how to accelerate that.

“Community Land Scotland will play an active part in presenting evidence for further reforms to promote an ever greater role for communities in the ownership and management of their land and look forward to contributing actively to the work now getting under way.

“The review group have a significant number of months to complete their work and it will be important that options for any necessary legislation can be developed in tandem with their work to avoid any delay in being able to legislate.”