Category: News

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.”

Practical on-farm amnesty days call for tenant farmers to act now

A series of meetings held across Scotland have called for tenant farmers to act now to record and agree improvements as part of the tenant amnesty.

Last week saw the conclusion of a round of meetings, held by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA), supported by the Scottish Land Commission, which demonstrated and explained to tenant farmers how to carry out the amnesty for tenant’s improvements. 

Tenant farmers have until June 2020 to consider if they have improvements to notify their landlord about and the practical meetings held over the last few months opened up discussion with tenants and land agents about the process.

The meetings took place on farms across the country and provided practical examples of tenant’s improvements and fixtures alongside practical discussion about the nature of the improvement and if they were eligible for the amnesty.

The meetings also provided step by step guidance on going through the amnesty process and explaining what evidence and information is required to demonstrate that the improvement was carried out by the tenant.

Commenting on the importance of the amnesty Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh said:

“The meetings have been a good opportunity to encourage tenant farmers to begin the amnesty process and to prepare a definitive list of improvements that may be eligible for compensation at waygo.  Tenants may be able to claim for the improvements even if some procedures weren’t followed when they were initially made.

“It is really important to emphasise that this amnesty is only taking place for three years – and we’re half way through already.  If tenant farmers have not started, they need to get started now.”

STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said:

“Completing the tenants’ amnesty is one of the most important tasks most tenants will ever undertake. Not only will this regularise and record improvements, but identifying tenant’s improvements and fixtures will be essential for the new rent test due to be rolled out in the next year or so.

“The amnesty has the full support of the industry so it is surprising that such a small number of tenants seem to be taking advantage of the amnesty and we would urge all tenants to get involved before it is too late,’

More information about the amnesty can be found on

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.”

Land value capture to have a proactive role in place making

Ways in which Scotland can successfully harness land value capture to create places where people want to live are being explored by the Scottish Land Commission.

Focus on how to capture the increase in the value of land due to publically created uplifts such as improved infrastructure, planning permission and wider societal changes has increased with the current policy debate in Scotland around the Planning Bill. 

There is a call to give planning authorities the ability to acquire development land at values closer to its existing use.  Planning authorities will then benefit from the uplift in land value generated when the sites receive planning permission to fund investment in the infrastructure required to support the development.

To inform this debate the Land Commission has published the sixth paper in its Land Lines discussion series.  The paper ‘Local authority land acquisition in Germany and the Netherlands: are there lessons for Scotland?’ looks at the experience of other countries, in particular the Netherlands and Germany, and suggests what lessons Scotland might learn from this experience.  The paper’s author, Professor Tony Crook, examines how local authorities could capture more of this “development value“, using it to facilitate improvement.

The report findings suggest that the key difference between practice on the continent and Scotland lies more in the overarching approach to planning and land assembly than the detail of the compensation arrangements used to support it. 

The Commission is looking at land value capture to help deliver well-planned sustainable communities in places people want to live and at prices they can afford to pay.  To work towards this they have identified five connected opportunities to explore how the uplift in land values can be shared to greater benefit:

  • More effective use of existing mechanisms to fund different types of infrastructure in different areas
  • Availability of highly skilled multidisciplinary teams in both the public and private sector
  • Greater use of planning policies to shape land values by clear and consistent application of planning policies to reduce the difference between existing use value and full market value
  • Investigate the potential of land pooling and the opportunity presented by the “masterplan consent areas” proposed in the current Planning Bill to deliver this
  • Investigate the use of local property taxation to capture more of the uplift in land values generated from wider societal change to help fund infrastructure and place-making.

Commenting on the report, Shona Glenn, Head of Policy at the Scottish Land Commission said that the debate about how to capture the uplift in land value associated with planning permission for public benefit is a long standing one and a debate that is now once again, very topical.

“It is important that we learn from what has worked elsewhere and adapt it to the local context, so that we can help to deliver well-planned, sustainable communities

“Effective solutions to capture the uplift in land value for the public benefit need to combine looking at compensation and compulsory purchase with wider changes designed to support place-making and a more proactive role for planning authorities.”

The Land Commission’s next steps are to review the most effective ways in which to capture the increase in land value and specifically the opportunities for land pooling and assembly as a means to help deliver it.

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

Buccleuch Estates

Andrew Thin, Chair of the Scottish Land Commission welcomes the announcement by Buccleuch Estates of the sale of a portfolio of land on the Borders Estate and its stated commitment to reduce its overall footprint. “Scotland’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, published by the Government last year, sets out a clear principle that ‘there should be a more diverse pattern of land ownership and tenure, with more opportunities for citizens to own, lease and have access to land’.

 “The Land Commission sees this including a more diverse pattern of private ownership, as well as greater community ownership. We therefore welcome the review and decision by Buccleuch Estates to offer a portfolio of land on the open market as well as engage with community groups that have an interest in acquiring land. We encourage other large scale land owners to consider a similar review in relation to both business need and the wider principles of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement”.

Not so pretty vacant. Scottish Land Commission and SEPA target new uses for derelict and vacant land

Two of Scotland’s leading land and environment bodies have set their sights on finding ways to bring thousands of acres of derelict and vacant land back into productive use.

The Scottish Land Commission and SEPA have today launched their innovative partnership and taskforce to transform Scotland’s approach to vacant and derelict land.  It will see the two organisations:

  •  Go beyond regulatory and planning compliance, to develop innovative approaches that will drive transformative  – not piecemeal – change
  • Challenge and change the way that Scotland deals with the issue of vacant and derelict land
  • Work with local authorities, other public agencies and organisations in the private and social enterprise sectors to identify the causes and consequences of long-term land vacancy and dereliction
  • Develop a 10 year strategy for eradicating the problem, setting ambitious targets supported at a local and national level.

The Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey (SVDLS) was first set up 30 years ago, yet the amount of registered land has remained virtually static. There are currently around 11,600 hectares, two times the size of the City of Dundee, of derelict and urban vacant land in Scotland.

A new taskforce has been created, chaired by Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive Scottish Enterprise, to bring together leaders from the public, private and social enterprise sectors.  The taskforce will challenge and reshape the approach to bringing sites back into use which will have both economic and social benefits for all of Scotland.  Supported by the Land Commission and SEPA, the taskforce has the ambitious goal of halving the amount of Scotland’s derelict land by 2025.  The partnership and taskforce was launched today at the at ‘Unlocking Inclusive Growth: The Social Value Gathering’ conference in Edinburgh.

Launching the partnership and taskforce, Land Reform Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Scotland has far too much unused, unproductive land.  As the Programme for Government makes clear, land can play a major role in creating high-quality places that support Scotland’s health, wellbeing and prosperity.  The Scottish Government fully support the Scottish Land Commission and SEPA in investigating how this land could be better utilised by communities across the country, and I am keen to see an ambitious and innovative approach to this stubborn problem.

“The ‘unlocking’ of vacant and derelict land touches on a number of important strands of work, including planning and regeneration.  It is also another key strand of our ambitious land reform agenda, which includes a recent commitment to continue our £10 million annual funding of the Scottish Land Fund, the creation of a register of controlling interests in land, and we’re exploring the expansion of existing Community Right to Buy mechanisms.”

Chair of the Taskforce Steve Dunlop said:

“In disadvantaged areas of Scotland it is estimated that three in every five people live within 500 metres of a vacant or derelict site.  The taskforce will help drive practical action and look for innovative ways to make productive use of vacant and derelict land for housing, commercial and green space uses.

”Rejuvenating vacant and derelict land brings about long term regeneration and renewal – unlocking growth, reviving communities, increasing community empowerment, reducing inequalities and inspiring local pride and activities”

Chief Executive of the Scottish Land Commission, Hamish Trench, said:

“The partnership with SEPA and the creation of the Taskforce is a catalyst for change from across the sectors in our approach to vacant and derelict land. We want to identify what can be done with policy, legislation and action to release this land to benefit the communities living in and around it, making more of Scotland’s land do more for Scotland’s people.

“As part of that we, along with the taskforce, are looking at tools and mechanisms to address the problem of vacant and derelict land with scope for far more innovation in finding ways to bring the land back into productive use.

“There are already some inspiring – recent – examples of what can be achieved in our cities and we want to encourage more of these approaches.”

SEPA Chief Executive, Terry A’Hearn, said:

“Climate change, marine plastics and extreme weather events show that we are putting too much pressure on the environment. We are over-using the planet. But we are under-using some of our land.

“This Sustainable Growth Agreement with Scottish Land Commission is designed to fix this problem. This innovative partnership will transform Scotland’s approach to bringing vacant and derelict land back into productive use by turning once dormant liabilities into national assets.”

Recent examples of transforming vacant or derelict land for productive use include

  •  The Shettleston Growing Project in Glasgow which has created a thriving community garden on land previously used for storing building materials
  • The recently completed Social Bite Village in Granton, Edinburgh to provide attractive accommodation for homeless people
  • Scotland’s biggest and most ambitious regeneration programme Clyde Gateway has brought a number of large scale vacant derelict land sites back in to productive use, with the most recent being Magenta.
  • Regeneration of a 28-acre site, formerly the home of Johnnie Walker, generating inward investment and stimulating jobs at.HALO Kilmarnock

Find out more