Category: News

Scottish Land Commission creates stronger links to green network

Transforming vacant and derelict land should deliver environmental benefit to communities throughout central Scotland, the Scottish Land Commission said today (June 6).

Speaking in Glasgow at the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) forum, Commission chief executive Hamish Trench said the fair and productive use of land lay at the heart of land reform, and this included ensuring green spaces for healthy communities.

He said: “There are more than 9,000 hectares of vacant and derelict land in the CSGN area; which accounts for 78 per cent of Scotland’s total.

“The CSGN and the Commission believe this land holds huge potential to help make better places that support health and wellbeing, help boost the economy and mitigate against the challenges of climate change. In addition, by rejuvenating these areas communities stand to benefit from increased engagement and empowerment, tackling social inequalities while increasing local pride and ownership.”

The Scottish Land Commission has also agreed a concordat with the CSGN to support transformation of vacant and derelict sites. In it, the two bodies agree to:

  • Work in partnership to identify and create positive uses for vacant and derelict land
  • Recognise and promote green network/green infrastructure solutions
  • Incorporate the emerging priorities from the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce into CSGN-related strategies and plans
  • Share emerging data, analyses and market intelligence

Through the taskforce, launched last year, the Commission has a long term aim to substantially reduce vacant and derelict land in Scotland. Work is already underway to better understand the nature of the challenge, identify potential changes to policy and practice and to share experience of successful projects through demonstrator sites with the potential to be returned to productive use.

Keith Geddes, Chair of the CSGNT said;

“We welcome the opportunity to work with the Land Commission to find new and positive uses for vacant and derelict land in the CSGN area. While there was a welcome reduction in the amount of derelict land between 2017 and 2018, much remains to be done. While some of the sites will be suitable for traditional uses such as industry, commerce and housing, many will be suitable for re-naturalisation. And we are seeking to develop innovative uses for the land. In East Ayrshire, an area blighted by the remains of open cast mines, we are working with the Council to develop the East Ayrshire Council Coalfield Communities project at an open cast site between Cumnock and New Cumnock. The project will create opportunities for learning, recreation and wellbeing and has the potential to create a quality offer to attract more tourists to the area.”

The CSGN forum is being held in partnership with the Commission. Its focus this year is on repurposing unused and underused spaces within the CSGN network area, which stretches from Ayrshire and Inverclyde in the west, to Fife and the Lothians in the east.

Buccleuch Estates – Langholm Moor

Andrew Thin, Chair of the Scottish Land Commission welcomes the announcement by Buccleuch Estates that they are to embark on a period of community engagement to help shape the proposed sale of Langholm Moor.

“Buccleuch Estates has committed to reduce its overall footprint and it is good to see the Estate undertaking community engagement to help inform the next phase of proposed land sales.  The Estate will be using the Land Commission’s first Land Rights and Responsibilities Protocol ‘Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land’ which sets out practical advice on how landowners, land managers and communities can work together to make better – and fairer – decisions about land use.

“Scotland’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement sets out a clear ambition about the relationship between land and people in Scotland promoting greater diversity in ownership of land including more community ownership, high standards and transparency of land ownership and use and better community engagement in decisions about land.  We welcome the announcement by Buccleuch as a step in achieving this ambition and we encourage other large scale land owners to consider a similar approach.”

Community ownership study finds that a mix of funding is needed for success

Communities have many options to secure and develop land, but the full range of financing models is often not widely known, and there is more scope to develop innovative finance models to support community ownership, a new report says.

The Scottish Land Commission has this week published a report on the issue, entitled The Range, Nature And Applicability Of Funding Models To Support Community Land Ownership. It identifies 13 different approaches that have been used across Scotland to successfully fund community ownership and development. 

The mechanisms include well-known approaches such as charitable and philanthropic grants, crowd funding, commercial lending, and corporate social responsibility. The report also notes that individual models are not mutually exclusive and that a mix of models are often used by community organisations to achieve their aims. 

The most significant funding to buy land and building assets is provided by the public sector – particularly through the Scottish Land Fund. The Fund is now in its third funding round with an annual budget of £10m per year for the period 2016-21. 

However, the Commission advises that while public funding remains important, with increasing interest from communities, and wider challenges to public finance, the fullest range of potential funding models should be considered. To help make community land ownership a normal option for communities across Scotland, access to a range of funding models will help meet different circumstances. Furthermore, information on these should be easily available and community groups should be able to fully explore all options, with expert advice, at the earliest opportunity. 

Scottish Land Commission chief executive, Hamish Trench said: 

“Following our recommendations last year on what is needed to support community land ownership as a normal option across Scotland, we have looked more closely at the range of potential financing models. Community ownership is not an end in itself, but a means to achieving a range of positive outcomes from social and economic development to environmental management and restoration. 

“This report shows that communities are already tapping into a wide range of funding options and that more can be done to share the awareness, experience and availability of these. It also suggests there is scope to develop new innovative financing models that meet the needs of both communities and investors, drawing on some emerging international practice.” 

To stimulate further investigation of these options the Commission will be funding a short-term internship. This will consider two models that are used in Europe for similar purposes (a Founders Fund with Repayment Threshold, and Impact Investing with Social Return on Impact Discount) to research and develop their applicability for a Scottish context. 

Case study: West Harris Trust 

The Trust was formed in 2008 to purchase three crofting estates belonging to the Scottish Government, consisting of 7225ha (17853 acres) of land with 119 residents. Since purchasing the 

land in 2010 it has released land for housing, created a community hub and invested in several renewables projects to create an income stream. 

The Trust has been able to secure significant public sector resources to deliver public goods for projects that would not deliver a free market return and has been successful in using a range of alternative financial models to finance revenue-generating projects, particularly in renewables. It has been excluded from traditional bank lending due to its lack of start-up capital, limited initial revenue streams and assets being held in crofting tenure. However, it successfully used social impact lending from Social Investment Scotland and different forms of private sector investment to deliver projects. Preferential lending from the voluntary sector to buy the estate and from the local authority to enable housing development has also played an important role. Other important factors in successful development have been institutional support from public sector partners and the skills available in board and staff. The combination of available financial models, public sector support and local determination has enabled the trust to develop significant revenue streams, provide important community and business infrastructure, create employment opportunities and raise the population from 119 to 143. 

Highland map initiative aims to create a road to somewhere

Having created the hugely successful North Coast 500 tourist route, the North Highlands Initiative’s (NHI) next act is to encourage community projects that will build on the increased numbers of visitors and interest in the area.

The Scottish Land Commission has supported the task by funding an internship. Sam MacKinnon, a political science graduate, used his time at the Commission to create an interactive map identifying land owned and managed for non-profit purposes in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire, and which might also help to support local community ventures.

Sam’s work is part of the Commission’s drive to build future research capacity to support land reform.
The map will now be made widely available throughout the Highlands to encourage local groups to think about what they might be able to create, who they could work with and how to tap into the international reputation of the North Coast 500.

Shona Glenn, Head of Policy at Scottish Land Commission said:
“The Land Commission’s work programme covers a wide range of issues – everything from land value tax to community ownership – and as part of that we’re looking to the academic community in Scotland to help us gather evidence, spark debate and develop new approaches, to make the most of Scotland’s land.

“Working with Sam to create this new map, has allowed us to build a valuable new relationship with a young and talented researcher and also helped the NHI in providing a starting point for communities interested in developing tourism-based initiatives.”

Sam MacKinnon, who is from Harris but now living in Glasgow said: “The internship with the Commission has provided invaluable experience enabling me to apply my skills in strategic studies to address real life situations.

“Having grown up on Harris, I am very aware that one of these is the demographic decline of the Highlands and Islands.

“With visitors coming to the Highlands to explore the popular driving route, it has been great to create a resource that will hopefully help the region continue to build and benefit, on that success.”

David Whiteford, Chair of NHI commented:
“This map provides a valuable tool to communities in the North Highlands to identify potential opportunities to build on the success of the NC500 and develop a sustainable infrastructure and employment opportunities around the route.”

The maps can be accessed via this link: http://www.northhighlandinitiative.co.uk/land-ownership.

The map is intended to provide a starting point for communities interested in developing tourism based initiatives along the NC500 route by helping them either to identify public assets that might be available for transfer or partners who may be interested in a collaborative project.

The map includes all land and other assets owned by community groups, public agencies and charities operating in the North Highlands region. It can be used to see what assets may be available, where, who owns them, and other information such as the area it covers.

Fundamental rethink needed for Scotland’s approach to land development

The Scottish Land Commission is calling for a “fundamental rethink” of Scotland’s speculative and market-driven approach to identifying and allocating land for development.

As the Government’s Planning Bill reaches stage 3, the land reform body advises that a more collaborative approach to development, in which the public and private sectors share risks and reward, should be a long-term aim.

The Commission also recommends initial steps to improve the way in which development land value is reinvested to support viable and high-quality places.

As next steps the Land Commission is recommending that the Scottish Government:

· Undertakes a national review of developer contributions (Section 75 payments) that are often used to fund on-site infrastructure, needed to make developments acceptable in planning terms;

· Implements a new infrastructure levy as set out in the Planning (Scotland) Bill that could help fund infrastructure improvements; and

· Requires that masterplans in the new Masterplan Consent Areas (MCAs) provide detailed costings for the infrastructure they need.

Today’s recommendations follow on from recent policy debate around land value capture; this recognises that land increases in value depending on surrounding infrastructure, its location and planning rights, and that this increase is captured to fund infrastructure.

Ways in which land value capture could be used to generate public benefit, was one of the first things the Commission was asked to investigate by Government, when it was created in 2017.

Speaking about the recommendations being put forward to Scottish Government this week, Shona Glenn, Land Commission head of policy, argued that perhaps it was time to stop talking about “land value capture” and start talking about “land value sharing”. She suggested that the Masterplan Consent Areas (MCAs) proposed in the current Planning Bill could provide an opportunity to do this,

“The debate about how publicly created uplifts in land value should be shared between society and private landowners is one that has waxed and waned for decades.

“There is a strong public interest justification for pursuing policies that would enable more of the publicly created increases in land values to be used to help make places where people want to live.

“Our research over the last year shows there is no quick fix and whatever happens, there still needs to be an adequate supply of land brought forward for development.

“Longer term, we need to find ways to establish a more collaborative approach to place-making.”

Today’s recommendations to Scottish Government are informed by 18 months of research, including a joint report from the Scottish Land Commission and Scottish Futures Trust, Funding Scotland’s Infrastructure published today.

Neil Rutherford, senior associate director at the Scottish Futures Trust, explained:  “Infrastructure is vital to Scotland’s economic prosperity. It enables inclusive growth and supports all our daily activities. This belief has driven the joint work of SFT and the Scottish Land Commission on our Enabling Infrastructure study. The study itself looks at how a layered approach across such diverse areas as policy, planning and funding can collectively enable a more efficient and effective system for infrastructure delivery. This includes considering the role that land value uplift capture may play.

“We very much look forward to developing the findings of the report to enable and deliver Scotland infrastructure needs.”

The report is part of the Land Commission’s ongoing work on land supply for development as detailed in the Programme of Work.

The Land Commission’s next steps is to review the opportunities for land pooling and looking at the systemic change needed for a more collaborative approach to development.

Scottish Land Commission invites Peebles residents to community event

The Scottish Land Commission is continuing its calendar of public meetings with the next taking place in Peebles.

The Scottish Land Commission is holding an informal public meeting to give residents of Peebles the opportunity to find out more about how their community can benefit from land reform.

The event is being held at Eastgate Theatre and Arts Centre on Tuesday 7 May at 6:30pm.

Chair of the Scottish Land Commission, Andrew Thin, said:

“Land is at the heart of Scotland’s identity, economy and communities – so it matters that it is owned and used in a fair and productive way.  We are keen to meet with communities to discuss the work we are doing to deliver change so that the ownership and use of land realises Scotland’s potential. There are many benefits it can bring to you and your community including transforming vacant and derelict land, community ownership, community engagement in decisions relating to land and unlocking opportunities through modernising land ownership.

“We will also be discussing our recently published report; investigation into the issues associated with large scale and concentrated land ownership in Scotland. The report was published in March, alongside recommendations to Scottish Ministers to address the adverse effects identified, and to stimulate a more productive, diverse and dynamic pattern of rural land ownership.

“This is one of a number of public meetings taking place across Scotland throughout the year from Aberdeen to Kirkcaldy and Tomintoul to Perth and we hope to meet as many people as possible. I would encourage everyone to attend and make the most of the opportunity to discuss how we can make more of Scotland’s land for Scotland’s people.”

The event is free and refreshments will be provided. For more information visit www.landcommission.gov.scot, call 01463 423 300 or email info@landcommission.gov.scot.

Scottish Land Commission invites Bute residents to community event

The Scottish Land Commission are heading to the Isle of Bute to continue its calendar of public meeting’s.

The Scottish Land Commission is holding an informal public meeting to give residents on the Isle of Bute the opportunity to find out more about how their community can benefit from land reform.

The event is being held at United Church of Bute, Rothesay on Wednesday 24 April 2019 at 7pm.

Chair of the Scottish Land Commission, Andrew Thin, said:

“Land is at the heart of Scotland’s identity, economy and communities – so it matters that it is owned and used in a fair and productive way.  We are keen to meet with communities to discuss the work we are doing to deliver change so that the ownership and use of land realises Scotland’s potential. There are many benefits it can bring to you and your community including transforming vacant and derelict land, community ownership, community engagement in decisions relating to land and unlocking opportunities through modernising land ownership.

“We will also be discussing our recently published report investigation into the issues associated with large scale and concentrated land ownership in Scotland. The report was published last month alongside recommendations to Scottish Ministers to address the adverse effects identified, and to stimulate a more productive, diverse and dynamic pattern of rural land ownership.

“This is one of a number of public meetings taking place across Scotland throughout the year from Aberdeen to Kirkcaldy and Paisley to Perth and we hope to meet as many people as possible. I would encourage everyone to attend and make the most of the opportunity to discuss how we can make more of Scotland’s land for Scotland’s people.”

The event is free and tea and coffee will be provided. For more information visit www.landcommission.gov.scot, call 01463 423 300 or email info@landcommission.gov.scot.

Tenant Farming Commissioner publishes Conduct of Agents Guide

Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), Bob McIntosh, has today published a Guide to the Professional Conduct of Agents and How to make a Complaint.

The guide is to help landlords and tenants to understand what standards of conduct they should expect from a professional agent, and the actions that they should take to help ensure that any instances of poor conduct are addressed promptly and effectively.

It has been developed as part of the recommendations made by the TFC to Scottish Ministers following a review of the conduct of agents of agricultural landlords and tenants.

The review found that landlords and tenants were generally satisfied by the conduct of agents working on their behalf but less so with that of agents acting on behalf of the other party. Overall, 17 per cent of both landlords and tenants were dissatisfied with the conduct of an agent and dissatisfaction was generally linked to behaviour rather than to any lack of technical or legal knowledge on the part of the agent.

The professional standards and the codes of practice, along with the associated complaints systems, should ensure that agents can be held to account in most circumstances where there is a failure in respect of conduct or standard of service but in practice few such complaints are made.

Bob McIntosh explains “The professional standards and complaint systems have an important part to play in driving up standards and dealing with bad practice, so it is vital that the system is widely understood and is readily accessible.

“This guide provides a handy checklist for anyone considering employing a professional agent, some general principles of good practice that should always be followed and information about how to make a complaint.

“Most agents perform their duties in a professional manner but the actions of a small minority can have a disproportionate effect on the reputation of the agent, their employers or their profession.  It is important that landlords and tenants do complain about the unacceptable conduct of agents so that standards can be raised and poor behaviour addressed.”

The Guide is available at https://landcommission.gov.scot/tenant-farming/codes-of-practice/

Land owner survey looks at community engagement

The Scottish Land Commission is opening a survey to look at how community engagement in decisions relating to land is currently undertaken in Scotland and wanting to hear from anyone with control over the way land is used or managed.

The Land Commission is supporting  land owners, land managers and communities to work together to make better – and fairer – decisions about land use with the publication of its first Protocol on Community Engagement in Decisions Relating to Land.

Clear and open community engagement in decisions relating to land can bring benefits to all parties involved creating better opportunities to engage, understand and influence potential change and opportunities.

The Commission’s Protocol supports the Guidance on engaging communities in decisions relating to land, which was published by the Scottish Government in April last year.  As part of this work the Commission wants to review the effectiveness of the guidance by taking a snapshot of how community engagement is currently undertaken in Scotland.  This will be used to find out more about the current level and measure the effectiveness of community engagement by those who own or manage land.

Helen Barton, Community Engagement Advisor at the Scottish Land Commission explains:

“We want to hear from anyone with control over the way land is used or managed in both urban and rural Scotland. The survey is relevant for all private and public sector owners of land and buildings, including individuals, companies, charities and trusts, non-governmental organisations and community owners. It is also relevant to tenants of any sort who have control over land.

“The information provided will not include any personal identifying information and we will collate and analyse the responses to see where there are trends by area and sector.

“It is important to get an idea of what community engagement is happening now to not only use as a baseline measure but also to see if there are any lessons we can learn from current practices.”

In the survey, the Commission will also be looking to find out how many respondents are aware of the Scottish Government’s guidance as well as the Commission’s own Protocol for Community Engagement, which sets out general and specific expectations for owners and managers of land.

The survey will be open for responses until the end of May 2019 and can be found here:  www.landcommission.gov.scot/communityengagement

https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/GJI0O/ 

Agreement reached over Borders tenant farmer

The Scottish Tenant Farming Commissioner announced today that a solution had been found to enable a tenant farmer to remain on a farm he rented from Buccleuch Estates.

David and Alison Telfer occupy Cleuchfoot Farm on Buccleuch’s Borders Estate on a short-limited duration tenancy.

The estate had granted a new tenancy until November 2019 – 21 months beyond the end date of the previous lease – and had put the farm and adjoining hill ground up for sale. The couple wished to remain on the farm until retirement and said they had received a verbal assurance from the previous Duke of Buccleuch.

Buccleuch approached the Tenant Farming Commissioner and the acquirer of the land, James Jones & Sons Ltd, in an effort to find a solution.

Bob McIntosh, Tenant Farming Commissioner, said: “Landlords are entitled to resume land at the end of a fixed term tenancy but there was an extraordinary set of circumstances in this case where there was a dispute over what had been discussed in years gone by in terms of the length of occupancy. We are pleased that, through collaborative discussion, a satisfactory outcome has been achieved for the tenant, the new landlord and all other parties.”

Mr David Telfer said: “We appreciate the efforts of all those involved who have worked to find a resolution to this issue and we are pleased to be able to continue to live and work on at least part of Cleuchfoot until our retirement.”

Benny Higgins, executive chairman of Buccleuch, commented: “We were pleased that our proposal found agreement with all the parties involved and thank the Tenant Farming Commissioner for his constructive liaison with the tenant.”