March 22, 2022
Movements for social change require, by definition, momentum. And in order to sustain momentum, a source of energy is required, and that comes from the passion and commitment from within those communities who seek the change. At one point, land reform looked to be losing momentum and running out of ideas. Community Land Scotland has played a major part in reigniting this movement which, with the Land Commission now firmly established, looks to be unstoppable. Earlier this month, Community Land Scotland wrote to the Minister setting out an ambitious agenda for the next piece of the legislative jigsaw.
Ailsa Raeburn , Chair, Community Land Scotland Màiri McAllan MSP, Minister for Environment and Land Reform
3rd March 2022
Forthcoming Land Reform Bill
I hope this finds you well. I’m writing in my capacity as Chair of Community Land Scotland to outline our ambitions for the forthcoming Land Reform Bill which the Scottish Government has committed to introducing to Parliament by the end of 2023.
Community Land Scotland warmly welcomes that commitment and the stated focus of the forthcoming Bill on tackling the scale and concentration of land ownership across rural and urban Scotland, including provision for a public interest test to apply to transfers of particularly large scale landholdings, with a presumption in favour of community buy-out when the test applies.
We recognise that such a public interest test offers considerable scope to take forward Scotland’s land reform agenda in a progressive way, depending on how it is constructed. Community Land Scotland is developing our policy thinking regarding the design and implementation of such a test and we look forward to sharing that with Government and other stakeholders in due course.
Community Land Scotland is clear that the forthcoming Bill must go beyond these welcome commitments to maximise its effectiveness in addressing the structural barrier that large scale and concentrated land ownership presents to the sustainable development of Scotland’s rural and urban communities. The pressing need to eliminate that barrier is underscored by the crucial role of land in helping to ensure a just transition to net zero and in providing a foundation for community wealth building.
As you know, Community Land Scotland published Land for the Common Good, our manifesto for a sustainable Scotland in November 2020. It contains a number of proposals to address issues of scale and concentration of land ownership; provisions for which we wish to see contained in the forthcoming Land Reform Bill. In addition to a public interest test on significant land transfers, our proposals include:
- Introduction of a public interest test on existing significant land holdings in terms of their scale and/orconcentration of ownership to ensure such land holdings serve the public interest and support sustainable Development;
- Introduction of a related power for Scottish Ministers to apply a Compulsory Sale Order to require the sale of part or all of such land holdings – including by lot – in the event of the public interest test not being met;
- Introduction of a duty on Public Authorities to apply a public interest test when disposing of land assets over a set value/threshold to assess whether prospective purchasers’ future plans for the assets serve the public interest and support sustainable development;
- Introduction of a mechanism to regulate the creation of monopoly ownership(s) of land by any individual acting alone or in consortia with specified beneficial interests by permitting a control on the total amount of land in Scotland that can be held in such ownership;
- Amendment of the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax to include an escalating supplement on sales of land holdings over a specific scale to private purchasers as a disincentive to creation of monopoly land holdings;
- Introduction of a statutory Land Rights and Responsibilities review process for landowners where there is evidence of adverse impacts on the sustainable development of their land holdings, with scope to apply a range of sanctions as appropriate;
- Granting a right to communities to take ownership of the foreshore within their communities which is currently owned by the Crown;
- Introduction of Compulsory Sale Orders to enable public authorities to bring derelict or unused sites or buildings into productive use;
- Introduction of a requirement that receipt of all land management grants be contingent on preparation of an approved land management plan involving community consultation for land holdings over a given threshold;
- Introduction of a Community Right to Buy to further Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.
Aside from the above, we are also keen to explore the legislative scope within the forthcoming Bill to enable public agencies to enter into joint ventures to assist in expanding community ownership of land and built assets.
Community Land Scotland will continue to advocate publicly for provisions in the Land Reform Bill to address the above proposals to enable a genuinely transformative step change to occur regarding Scotland’s ongoing land reform journey. To that end, we therefore consider it essential that the Bill be sufficiently widely framed to accommodate such provisions when it is introduced to Parliament.
On a related point, we see the forthcoming Land Reform Bill as an opportunity to amend the existing suite of Community Rights to Buy as appropriate to ensure that they are fit for purpose. We note the Government’s commitment to review the Community Empowerment Act in the Programme for Government. We would welcome more information on thenscope and timing of that proposed review and, particularly, whether it will encompass consideration of Community Rights to Buy within its remit, as we believe it should.
Community Land Scotland is conscious that the policy agenda propelling the need for further land reform is evolving rapidly. Our policy thinking regarding the potential of the Bill to address that agenda is similarly continuing to evolve. We also recognise that the rapid pace of that changing agenda may necessitate urgent policy interventions prior to the anticipated introduction of the Land Reform Bill. We will therefore keep you and your officials appraised of any further proposals that emerge from our thinking, both in relation to the Bill and regarding potentially earlier policy interventions, that address the requirements of that fast-moving policy agenda.
In closing, Community Land Scotland would be pleased to discuss any of the above issues in more detail with you and your officials as appropriate.
Chair, Community Land Scotland.