October 8, 2014
Time this robbery was stopped
Possibly one of the weakest parts of the forthcoming Community Empowerment Bill is the section on Common Good property. One of the problems with Common Good is that because it is so shrouded in complexity and ancient history, only very few people can claim to fully understand it. As a result, this Bill inevitably appears to be tinkering with a topic that may in fact merit legislation in its own right. Whatever it is, something needs to be done to stop the pilfering of the commons such as this example in Scottish Borders.
The Theft of Ancrum Common
Extract from Land Matters – the blog of Andy Wightman
Over the past 20 years, I have uncovered many examples of areas of common land across Scotland – remnants of commonties, greens, loans and the like. Unfortunately, little is being done to protect them from land-grabs by an assortment of avaricious individuals. If such claims go without challenge, a legally watertight title can be obtained. Such claims are open to challenge but there are three key difficulties.
Firstly, local knowledge of common land rights is often limited and the institutions don’t exist to maintain awareness and prompt action. This contrasts with the situation in England and Wales where there is a well-developed framework of law. (1)
Secondly, there is often no title for common land, leaving it open for land-grabbing.
And thirdly, where such land-grabs take place, there is no way that local people can know about it. Despite claims being lodged in a public register (the Register of Sasines or Land Register), no local publicity attends the lodging of documents with the Registers of Scotland by solicitors via DX Mail. Thus the only way one could stay abreast of any such developments would to spend thousands of pounds per day searching the registers every day all year round just in case someone had submitted a title claim.
For example, in the course of research for my book, The Poor Had No Lawyers, I found a number of examples of such grabs. One, which I have yet to fully document, involved the appropriation of 393 acres of commonty in Perthshire in 1986 by three landowners whose agent (the solicitor), according to a note in the Register of Sasines was “aware that granters apparently only have title to rights in pasturage in xxxx commonty.” The local community was not consulted and today, many locals are angry that a valuable part of their heritage was stolen from under their noses.
Which brings me to the subject of this blog. Click here for the full blog and to gain sight of maps, documents etc