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July 3, 2019

Evolution of right to buy

The first piece of land reform legislation in 2003 established what became known as the Community Right to Buy. It was, in truth, a fairly blunt instrument. It was only a right to register interest in buying some land if the land in question ever came onto the market. Nonetheless, it provoked fearful headlines in the right wing press. Since then the Right to Buy has continued to evolve and is now, under certain conditions, an absolute right to buy – in effect a compulsory purchase. Scottish Government is consulting on how the latest version of these powers might operate.


Right to Buy Land to Further Sustainable Development          SG Consultation ends 18th September

This is a new right to buy contained within the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 which will affect both rural and urban land. The right to buy includes salmon fishing and mineral rights and, significantly, this new right to buy allows a community body (which is subject to statutory regulation) to nominate a third party purchaser to take title to the ground being acquired.

It should be noted that this latest right to buy is an absolute right to buy, meaning a community organisation may force the sale of land even where the owner of the land is not contemplating a sale.

The Bill sets out some quite strict requirements, however, which must be met before the right to buy may be activated. The key conditions are:-

the transfer of land is likely to further the achievement of sustainable development in relation to the land;

the transfer of land is in the public interest;

the transfer of land:-

·         is likely to result in significant benefit to the relevant community to which the application relates; and

·         is the only practicable, or the most practicable, way of achieving that significant benefit

·         not granting consent to the transfer of land is likely to result in harm to that community.

The exact meaning of this criteria is difficult to determine, and the tests are quite subjective. However, it seems that the information level required is quite high as far as the expectations on community organisations wishing to buy land against the wishes of the owner.

If the Scottish Ministers sanction a sale, the price which is to be paid is the market value.