January 14, 2020
A Resettlement Act for the 21st century?
Last month saw the centenary of the passing of the Land Resettlement Act- legislation driven by the need to provide homes for returning soldiers from WW1 but in some respects was also seeking to put right some of the terrible injustices of the 19th century clearances. The Scottish Land Commission have commissioned and published a paper by the historian Prof Jim Hunter which reflects on the impact of the Act and asks whether there are any lessons to be learnt in the context of current concerns about depopulation in remote rural Scotland.
As Scotland marks the Centenary of the Land Settlement Act, the Scottish Land Commission says more reform to land ownership and land use is needed, to make the most of Scotland’s land for the benefit of all.
This month, December 2019, marks 100 years since the Land Settlement Act in Scotland.
The Act aimed to resettle populations following the end of the First World War through the creation of smallholdings and crofts.
As a result, a great deal of resettlement was made possible in areas that had suffered population declines over previous years, for example, the settlement of 67 previously landless families from Harris and Lewis at Portnalong which is now a populated and thriving township.
To mark the Centenary, the Land Commission is publishing a paper – Re-peopling Empty Places – by Professor Jim Hunter. This examines the impact the Act had, its long term legacy and what we can learn from it in addressing the population challenge now facing some of Scotland’s most fragile rural communities.
Commenting on the Centenary, Andrew Thin, Chair of the Land Commission said: “Many see the Act as being a significant piece of land reform for Scotland. Land reform is not a new thing. Now, when we are faced with declining populations in some of our most fragile rural communities, we should reflect on the legacy of the 1919 Act and challenge ourselves to find today’s equivalent solutions”.
“The momentum for change is growing, with a focus on population challenges in the new Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 and a commitment to ‘increasing the population of the rural areas of Scotland’.”
Andrew Thin pointed out that the way we own and use land is fundamental to realising Scotland’s ambitions for fairer and greener economy: “Land availability in the right place at the right price, is core to securing long term renewal of remote rural populations, and land ownership is key to making this happen.
“The way we own and use land is central to big public policy challenges including climate action, productivity, and inclusive growth.
“Reforms to both land ownership and use are needed to unlock opportunities for inclusive growth and to make the most of our land for everyone.”
During 2020 the Land Commission will continue to investigate how new approaches to land ownership and governance models can help to increase access to land and support sustainable communities as part of the ongoing programme of land reform.