Author: Sara Smith

Public Meeting – Edinburgh, Tuesday 2nd April 2019

Public Meeting: Riddles Court, Edinburgh – Tuesday 2nd April 2019

Come along and find out how your community can benefit from:

  • transforming vacant and derelict land
  • community ownership
  • community engagement in decisions relating to land
  • modernising land ownership

Commissioners & staff will be there from 6:30pm to meet with you.

This is a free event and tea & coffee will be provided for you from 6:45pm

For more information please contact us on: or 01463 723 300

Public Meeting – Aberdeen, Monday 4th March 2019

Public Meeting: Aberdeen Arts Centre – Monday 4th March, 7pm

Come along and find out how your community can benefit from:

  • transforming vacant and derelict land
  • community ownership
  • community engagement in decisions relating to land
  • modernising land ownership

Commissioners & staff will be there from 6:30pm to meet with you.

This is a free event and tea & coffee will be provided for you from 6:45pm

For more information please contact us on: or 01463 723 300

Scottish Land Commission champions engagement process for successful land management

A new Protocol and toolkit that sets out practical advice on how landowners, land managers and communities can work together to make better – and fairer – decisions about land use is launched today by the Scottish Land Commission.

The Protocol supports the Guidance on Engaging Communities in decisions relating to land, which was published by the Scottish Government in April last year.  It is the first in a series of Protocols that the Land Commission will produce to encourage practical implementation of the principles within the Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS).

The first Land Rights and Responsibilities Protocol focuses particularly on Principle 6: “There should be greater collaboration and community engagement in decisions about land”.

The Protocol highlights the benefits for all parties: genuine engagement is good for land owners because it can reduce potential conflict, help make businesses more resilient and promote innovation. Meanwhile communities will be better informed and people will have a better opportunity to engage, understand and influence potential change and opportunities.

The Commission has produced a toolkit to support land owners in engaging with communities to accompany the Protocol including a ‘decision map’ detailing engagement methods and what is expected of land owners and managers in different situations and a guide to engagement plans to support the community engagement process.

Scottish Land Commissioner, Sally Reynolds explained that the Protocol defines standard good practice for engagement over land use and management.

“Early and open engagement by those who own or manage land with the local community should be part of normal business practice.  Everyone benefits from knowing about decisions that might affect them and by working together and engaging in a process, it is easier to make progress.

“We have devised the Protocol and the toolkit to clearly show the practical approach to engagement expected when changes to land use are being explored.

“We believe it will promote an open approach to decision making, all of which is a vital part of increasing the accountability of land ownership and making the most of opportunities.”

One initiative that illustrates good practice in terms of the principles of community engagement is the East Neuk Community Action Plan (ENCAP) Steering Group in Fife, which has successfully brought together landowners, community groups and others in to community-led planning. Partners include the East Neuk Estates Group which forged strong relationships with community groups, responded to the priorities they identified and integrated these into their own estate and land-use plans.

The Land Commission will produce a series of Protocols on different subjects by working closely with stakeholders representing a range of interests.

Sally Reynolds said, “The Protocols will be short, clear, practical and fair to all parties, setting out clear expectations of what ought to happen in normal circumstances.”

Report examines merits of land value tax in Scotland

A new report looking at land value tax, published today, Monday 10th December, suggests that land value taxation could help deliver Scotland’s land reform objectives and raise revenue in a more progressive way.

With a total estimated value of around £5 trillion, or just over half of the total net worth of the UK, land is the most valuable asset in the UK.

This has led many to question whether more needs to be done to ensure that the gains from rising land value, benefit society as a whole.

Written for the Scottish Land Commission by a research team at the University of Reading, the report argues that there is scope for reform of existing land and property taxation.

It also suggests that land value tax would be an efficient approach to such taxation, as the supply of land is relatively fixed and cannot fluctuate with changes in rates.

A number of countries around the world already use some form of land value tax.

The research team looked at this international experience and assessed the potential of using land value taxation in Scotland.

The report identifies a number of practical issues that would need to be resolved before any land value tax system is implemented.

These include the role of the planning system and the land register, and coordination with existing land and property taxes so that any new tax would not negatively affect development viability and wider public policy goals.

Alongside the report, the Land Commission has also published a briefing paper detailing the next steps for its work on land value tax and how it could help improve the productivity, diversity and accountability of the way Scotland’s land is owned and used.  This work will examine the potential role land value tax may play in:

  1.   Reducing the amount of vacant and derelict land: land value tax could help to achieve this on some sites by establishing a financial cost for keeping land idle, creating an incentive for it being brought back into use and discouraging speculation in the land market.
  2.  Capturing more of the publically-created increases in land value as a result of wider societal changes: for example,  improvements in the local or national economy can make an area more desirable to live in increasing land value; land value tax has the potential to return some of these gains to society by using the revenue raised to help fund local infrastructure, amenities, and public services.
  3. Creating more diverse land ownership in Scotland: changes in the land tax base and/or tax structure could support the move to a more productive and diverse pattern of rural land ownership and use.

Commenting on the report, Hamish Trench, Chief Executive of Scottish Land Commission said,

“This report provides a good evidence base for us to engage widely on the potential role land value taxation could play in making more of Scotland’s land. The research suggests land value tax could contribute to addressing key land reform objectives, including bringing vacant and derelict sites into use, reinvesting rising land values to public benefit and moving to a more diverse and productive pattern of land ownership.

“While the theoretical case for land value tax is strong, this research focused on international experience in implementing land value tax and it provides useful lessons on both the policy approach and practical issues that need to be considered.

“The Scottish Land Commission will now be engaging widely with stakeholders to undertake further analysis of role land value tax could play in delivering land reform priorities.”

Not So Pretty Vacant. Taskforce starts task of reducing vacant and derelict land.

The Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce will start the process of finding 100 sites with the best potential for development at its meeting today (Monday November 26). There are more than 3600 sites on the Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey, ranging in size from under one hectare up to more than 100 hectares.

The recent launch of the ‘Not So Pretty Vacant’ joint campaign by the Scottish Land Commission and SEPA drew national attention to the many derelict and vacant sites across Scotland. Currently around 11,600 hectares of land across Scotland have fallen out of productive use and the taskforce has been created to reduce this amount.

Taskforce head and chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, Steve Dunlop, said:

“Communities will play a central part in unlocking and transforming vacant and derelict sites. Our job as taskforce members will be to bring all our energies, enthusiasm and networking experience to identifying the barriers and looking if there are better ways to go about making derelict land productive once more.”

“We need to embed a more strategic approach to tackling long-term land vacancy and dereliction.  We need to look at previous and on-going efforts to bring vacant and derelict land back into productive use, both in Scotland and elsewhere, and define where current policy and practice either helps or hinders,” Steve adds.

The next meeting of the group takes place today, Monday, November 26. Among its first tasks is to better understand the nature of the challenge to reforming vacant and derelict land in Scotland and identify what changes will need to be made to existing policy and practice. The taskforce aims by 2025 to reduce the amount of vacant and derelict land in Scotland by 50 per cent and wants to identify some key sites to meet this aim.

Marie Macklin CBE, Founder and Executive Chair of The HALO Urban Regeneration Company, said: “The HALO is currently overseeing the transformation of a 23-acre site in Kilmarnock, formerly the home of Johnnie Walker, the world’s leading Scotch whisky.

“At The HALO it has been vital for us to evolve through significant community and partner consultation and engagement so that we can deliver sustainable, long-term economic and social benefits for the town of Kilmarnock, Ayrshire and wider Scottish communities.

“Transforming vacant and derelict land across Scotland can unlock massive opportunity for communities through investment and the creation of jobs. That is why I believe the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce is playing a vital role in helping communities bring back derelict land into productive use.”

Following the pilot phase the taskforce intends to work directly with relevant agencies to embed the changes identified and with selected local authorities to apply the approach developed to a handful of selected demonstrator sites. This will then generate a tool kit to bring other long-term vacant and derelict sites elsewhere in Scotland back into productive use.

Community ownership should become routine option for communities across Scotland, says new report

Community ownership should become a normal and realistic option for communities to acquire land and assets, according to recommendations on community ownership published today Friday 23 November, 2018.

The report prepared for Ministers by the Scottish Land Commission, follows a review of existing community right to buy mechanisms and community ownership in Scotland.

The report makes a number of recommendations to Scottish Ministers for the future of community right to buy; in particular, that community ownership should become a routine option for communities, so it is planned and proactive rather than reactive.

The report recommends that there needs to be a

  clear vision for how community ownership can become a mainstream way to deliver development and regeneration in urban and rural communities

   recognition that community ownership is not an end in itself but a means to delivering wider outcomes

    shift from community acquisition being driven either by specific problems or a reaction to land coming onto the market, to being planned and proactive.

Informed by research by a team led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), the report considered the experience of community ownership in Scotland over the last 25 years since the first buy out in Assynt.

The Commission will now work with Scottish Government to bring interested stakeholders together to shape the policy tools and specific interventions needed to deliver the recommendations in the report that include:

   embedding community land and asset ownership into local place planning

   ensuring that targets for community ownership reflect the outcomes sought in both rural and urban communities

    ensuring support for community ownership transfers is provided across the whole geography of Scotland

    considering longer-term sources of financial support for both capital costs and post-acquisition development

    supporting negotiated transfer of land as the norm, whilst streamlining right to buy processes

Speaking about the report Lorne Macleod, Scottish Land Commissioner, commented that community ownership and right to buy has developed significantly over the last 20 years and said, “Community ownership is now seen as integral to regeneration and sustainable development in both rural and urban contexts in Scotland.

“It should be seen as normal and routine, as it is internationally, for a community to acquire and own land that could provide local housing, business development, community facilities, recreation facilities, greenspace, as a fundamental way to create more vibrant communities and regional economies.”

Land Reform Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Community ownership, when done properly, has been shown time and again to deliver real benefits to communities, providing a long term sustainable future for the land and assets acquired.   

“It has been great to see such an increase in community ownership in recent years, thanks to the success of some amazing local groups working with the Scottish Government. This is unlocking potential in our urban, rural and island communities and giving local people a say in their future, and I hope to see many more communities getting involved in the years ahead.”

The Scottish Land Commission is now undertaking work looking at international experience of community land ownership to inform the long-term vision and delivery.

Housing on tenanted farms to meet the Repairing Standard

Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), Bob McIntosh, is advising that the agricultural holdings sector needs to come together to agree a way forward to ensure agricultural housing is subject to the same standards as private rented housing.

Currently most housing on tenanted farms is subject to the tolerable standard – a house that falls below it is not acceptable as living accommodation – and it is widely accepted that this needs to be changed so that housing which forms part of an agricultural holding tenancy should be subject to the repairing standard.  This is the minimum standard for private rented housing which sets out criteria that the property must meet before being let out.

The Scottish Government intends to introduce a requirement for all farmhouses to meet the Repairing Standard by 2027.

Bob McIntosh explains:

“The Repairing Standard does not currently apply to farmhouses that are part of an agricultural tenancy.

“In most tenancy agreements the landlord has the responsibility for replacing and renewing parts of the farmhouse which are worn out through fair wear and tear and the tenant is responsible for repairing and maintaining the farmhouse. However this may be affected by post lease agreements which transfer responsibilities to the tenant. The result is a variable picture in the standard of housing, with some farmhouses having been improved by the landlord, some by the tenant, some by both and some hardly at all.

“The introduction of new legislation will put the onus for any work onto the landlord but it is not clear if this will take precedence over existing post lease agreements which transfer responsibilities to the tenant.

“My advice is that everyone involved in the agricultural holdings sector need to give this issue some serious thought and come together to agree a sensible way forward that respects the legislation and which is fair to both the landlord and the tenant.”

Tenants and landlords with a farmhouse which is treated as fixed equipment are to adhere to the TFC’s Code of Practice on The Maintenance of the Condition of Tenanted Agricultural Holdings.

If you would like to find out more about this read Bob’s latest blog.

Scottish Land Commission’s response to SLE’s concerns about SLDT’s

David Johnstone
Scottish Land and Estates
Stuart House
Musselburgh EH21 7PB


Dear David

Buccleuch and Fixed Term Tenancies

Thank you for your letter to Andrew of 19th October. The Board have discussed the issues you raise at their meeting on 23rd and have asked me to respond to you.

I can be clear that the Land Commission fully supports the continued use of fixed term tenancy agreements, including Short Limited Duration Tenancies and recognises the landowner’s legal right to take land in hand when a tenancy expires.

The Commission does though expect decisions, including end of tenancy arrangements, to be made in a fair and responsible way in line with Codes of Practice and the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.

Andrew made two comments in response to a specific question about the particular situation of the Telfers and the Buccleuch sale. The first was to express our view that it would be reasonable to enable the Telfers to remain in occupation until retirement age. The second was to question whether the engagement with local communities has been as effective as might reasonably be expected, particularly given the scale of change and the clear expectations set out in the Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions About Land. These comments reflect our advice conveyed previously to Buccleuch.

These comments were given in relation to the particular case in question and were not intended, and should not be interpreted, as implying any wider policy position about SLDTs.

I should also confirm that we have not questioned or criticised land use change on Buccleuch or elsewhere. In fact we recognise that land use change is going to be inherent in making more productive use of land and in moving to a more diverse pattern of ownership. This dynamic process of change emphasises all the more the need for effective community engagement and a responsible approach to ensuring the legitimate interests of all relevant parties are taken into account.

Bob is currently developing a Code of Practice on lease agreement and management which will set out what can reasonably be expected of both parties in a responsible approach to handling tenancy agreements. I hope that SL&E will be able to support this as with other Tenant Farming Commissioner Codes of Practice.

Commissioners would be happy to meet with you to explore the issues raised and I will be in touch shortly to suggest a number of dates that might be suitable.


Yours sincerely

Hamish Trench
Chief Executive