The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 established the Scottish Land Commission, an executive non-departmental public body, which became fully operational on 1 April 2017.
Scotland’s current pattern of land ownership, management and use is a result of several millennia of slowly-evolving tradition, law and practice. The Scottish Government’s view is that there is clear understanding that land reform is an on-going process and there needs to be continual development of policies and monitoring of land ownership patterns and land use to address this. The Scottish Land Commission embraces this view and will work alongside the Scottish Government, stakeholders and the Scottish public to help make this happen.
Constructive change is required to alter the longstanding and widespread perception of a lack of equity in Scotland’s legal framework of land ownership and management. Since the conclusion of the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) and the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review group (AHLR), recommendations and targets are in place to steer this change in a positive direction.
Setting the scene
Since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, renewed energy has been injected into long-standing debates around land reform. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Agricultural Holding (Scotland) Act 2003 brought in provisions for the right of access to land and the pre-emptive community right to buy.
The Land Reform Review Group (2012 to 2014) reviewed land reform legislation and advised on potential improvements which would assist the diversification of land ownership and management. The LRRG’s final report argued that Scotland’s land should be owned and used in the public interest and that tax law and policy on land ownership should be reformed. The LRRG specifically recommended setting up a Land Register, a target of 1 million acres of land in community ownership by 2020 and a new Land Reform Bill.
The Agricultural Holding Legislation Review group published its report in early 2015 and its recommendations fed directly into part 1 of the Land Reform Bill.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 provides for: a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, the establishment of the Scottish Land Commission and within it the role of the Tenant Farming Commissioner, information to be collected about persons with a controlling interest in land owners and tenants, Ministers to issue guidance on engaging communities in decisions relating to land, and a variety of provisions concerning agricultural holdings, access rights, deer management and common good land.