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June 1, 2016

Negotiated sales

In the contested area of land reform, it is the legislation that seeks to define land rights and responsibilities and lays out procedures for asserting them. But legal processes are often extremely complex to work with and this is one of the reasons why many communities try to negotiate privately with the landowner when seeking to buy land,. However, avoiding the legislation doesn’t mean these transactions necessarily become straightforward. Last week, Community Land Scotland published a joint protocol with Scottish Land and Estates which is designed to ease some of the strain involved.


Community Land Scotland

Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform gave the opening address at the Community Land Scotland Conference in Stornoway today. During her speech she welcomed the launch of the new Protocol for Negotiated Sales which will provide a road map for facilitating negotiated sales of land from willing private landowners to communities.

Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham said: “I fully support this protocol for negotiated sales that has been developed jointly by Scottish Land and Estates and Community Land Scotland.  It is agreat example of what can be achieved with a spirit of co-operation and a willingness toaddress the issues that can arise from a lack of understanding between owners and communities.

 “It shows the advantages that early engagement has, for all concerned, and I know that it will be embraced with enthusiasm and a willingness to succeed. I look forward to hearing about the successes this protocol will bring.” The Protocol for Negotiated Sales has been developed by Community Land Scotland working in partnership with Scottish Land & Estates over the last eight months.

The development of the Protocol comes on the back of a 2 year legislative programme which has provided a range of additional rights for communities who may wish to purchase land. It is however recognised that taking the legislative route can be more onerous, for both landowners and communities, than reaching a sale via negotiation and the Protocol is designed therefore to facilitate more negotiated sales. 

There are various components to the Protocol, including flowcharts, a summary of community rights in law and case studies, but together they set out recommended processes for both landowner initiated and community initiated negotiated sales of land. The Protocol can be accessed via both CLS’ and SLE’s websites from Saturday 28 th May 2016.

David Johnstone, Chair of Scottish Land & Estates has welcomed the development of the Protocol. “I personally have experience of working with communities who have taken on ownership of land in both Johnstonebridge and Moffat and can see the benefit that the Protocol will have both for landowners and communities who are taking the first steps in this process. In SLE’s experience private landowners may have concerns regarding identifying the right community organisation and who exactly to negotiate with but the Protocol addresses that. By overcoming barriers such as these we hope the process will be smoothed. I know that I am not alone in having proactively approached communities with a view to them considering ownership of a property or an area of land, and I am surethat this Protocol will help increase those willing seller transfers already taking place across Scotland”

The development of the Protocol has drawn on the experience of many of the negotiated sales that have taken place over the last 5-10 years such as Findhorn, Barvas, Carloway, Galson and Scalpay and there are case studies from further afield including Bonar Bridge, Ulva Ferry on Mull and Whitmuir near Edinburgh. The lessons learned by these communities and landowners can now be passed on more widely through the Protocol which should hopefully lead to more transfers of land and associated assets in shorter periods of time. 

Lorne Macleod, Chair of Community Land Scotland who initiated the development of the Protocol said “ Community Land Scotland have developed and fully endorse the Protocolfor Negotiated Sales as the most effective way of delivering more land and associated assets into community ownership. We will continue to work with Scottish Land & Estates, Scottish Government and other partners including the Scottish Land Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to ensure its effectiveness.”