Tag: land reform scotland

Addressing Scotland’s pattern of land ownership can unlock economic and community opportunities

A new report published today (Wednesday 20 March 2019) finds that concentrated land ownership is having significant impacts on communities across rural Scotland.

The Scottish Land Commission report, titled Investigation into the issues associated with Large Scale and Concentrated Land Ownership in Scotland.  It is published alongside a set of Recommendations to Scottish Government Ministers, who asked the Commission to examine these issues.

Representing the most substantial investigation conducted into the impacts of this issue, the report is based on robust evidence about rural land ownership that shows how the concentration of social, economic and decision-making power significantly impacts communities across rural Scotland.

The report follows a call for evidence by the Commission last year, for anyone with experience of living or working in parts of Scotland where most of the land is owned by a small number of people, to share their experiences.

More than 407 people, from landowners and land managers to community representatives and individuals, submitted evidence. The main findings in today’s evidence report are that

  • Most of the disadvantages associated with Scotland’s current pattern of land ownership relate to a concentration of social, economic and decision-making power, not simply the size of landholdings
  • The advantages identified relate mainly to potential economies of scale
  • In some parts of Scotland, concentrated ownership hampers economic development and causes serious and long-term harm to the communities affected
  • The problems are not associated exclusively with any particular type of landowner – the Commission found a consistent pattern of evidence relating to land owned across the private, public, NGO and community sectors
  • There are issues to address beyond ownership, specifically a lack of effective participation in land use change decisions
  • The pattern of market and social power in concentrated land ownership, has parallels with monopoly power in other sectors of the economy
  • There is – currently – little or no method of redress for communities or individuals, where there are adverse economic or social impacts.

Speaking about the report, Hamish Trench, CEO of The Scottish Land Commission said,

“Concern about the impacts of concentrated land ownership in Scotland has long been central to the land reform debate. This evidence report allows us to move on from debating whether ownership is an issue, to understanding what the issues are and how they can be addressed.

“The evidence we have collected shows clearly that it is the concentration of power associated with land ownership, rather than necessarily the scale of landholding, that has a significant impact on the public interest, for example in relation to economic opportunities, housing and community development.

“Good management can of course reduce the risks associated with the concentration of power and decision making, but the evidence shows that adverse impacts are causing significant detriment to the communities affected. This points to the need for systemic change beyond simply a focus on good management.”

Recommendations

Informed directly by the evidence that has been gathered, the Commission is today making initial recommendations to address the adverse effects identified, and to stimulate a more productive, diverse and dynamic pattern of rural land ownership.

Recommended statutory changes include:

  • Public interest test for significant land transfer
  • Requirement for a management plan
  • Statutory Land Rights and Responsibilities Review

Other recommendations include:

  • Promoting more diverse private ownership to help achieve land reform objectives
  • Local engagement in land use change

The Commission recommends the introduction of a public interest test and approval mechanism at the point of significant land transfer, an obligation for larger land holdings to engage on and publish a management plan, and a review mechanism to address adverse impacts on communities where normal responsible management approaches are not effective.

Speaking about the recommendations, Hamish Trench said,

“The reforms we propose are a first step to address the significant issues identified in the evidence and move towards a more diverse and dynamic pattern of land ownership.

“Some of these reforms will require legislative change, and in the short term we have identified the need for stronger leadership within the land ownership sectors to address the risk and impacts identified and implement a programme of land rights and responsibilities good practice.

“These reforms seek to address the issues of concentrated land ownership using ways that are normal in other countries and economic sectors. It is common in international practice to have some form of approval measures at point of land transaction and we are also used to regulating the concentration of market power and monopoly positions in other sectors of the economy.”

The Commission is to engage widely with stakeholders and the public on the findings of the evidence, its implications and their recommendations, through a series of events and public meetings culminating in a land reform conference in October 2019.

 

 

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.

Report points way to using land value increases to deliver new housing and development

A report published today points the way towards effective approaches for Scotland to use publicly created increases in land value to help finance the infrastructure needed to deliver new housing and other development.

Written for the Scottish Land Commission by a team from Heriot-Watt University, the report reviewed the UK’s historic experience of land value capture and identifies what lessons current policy makers could take from this experience.

The report concludes that previous attempts at introducing land value capture have failed largely due to the absence of political consensus. Connected to this, schemes need to be well resourced and seen to be fair, to command public consent.

However, with politicians of all persuasions now talking about the issue, it may now be possible to shape an approach that works.

The value of land is heavily dependent on the use to which it can be put and the amenities and infrastructure in the surrounding area.

The value of well-connected land, with planning permission, located close to public amenities is typically much higher than land without such advantages and typically arises because of the public sector granting planning permission or investing in infrastructure.

Talking about the report, Hamish Trench, Land Commission Chief Executive said that ever since development rights were nationalised in 1947, a debate about how to capture for public benefit, the uplift in land value associated with planning permission and public investment in infrastructure, has waxed and waned.

“The shortage of affordable housing currently afflicting many parts of the UK means that this debate is well and truly back in the ascendant – but in looking for solutions, it is important that we learn from the past.

“Our purpose in looking at land value capture is to help deliver well-planned sustainable communities in places people want to live and at prices they can afford to pay – something everyone can get behind. Really this is about reinvesting some of the land value in unlocking development. A solution may well involve a range of approaches suited to the different market conditions and geographies across Scotland. In many parts of Scotland – and elsewhere in the UK – market demand for housing is relatively low so there is not a large value to capture.

The ability of public authorities to acquire land at or near existing use value has underpinned some of the more successful attempts at capturing land value both in the UK (New Towns) and elsewhere in Europe.

“Changes to the rules of compulsory purchase and compensation could be part of the answer to capturing publicly created uplifts in land value” explains Mr Trench “but our work so far suggests that effective solutions will need to look beyond this. Changes will need to be designed to support the delivery of wider place-making objectives and be combined with a more proactive role for public authorities.”

The Commission’s next steps will be to work with partners in the sector to explore different models of using publicly created uplifts in land value to finance investment in enabling infrastructure and to investigate further the questions of market and existing use value.

Today’s report is one in a series of pieces of research on land for housing and development, a priority area of work for the Scottish Land Commission.

Read the full report here.

Read the Commission’s briefing paper here

Discussion paper looks at how land reform in Scotland can further realise human rights

The importance of economic, social and cultural human rights in the land reform agenda is highlighted in a new discussion paper published today Tuesday 8 May, 2018 by Scotland’s land reform body.

The paper ’Human Rights and the Work of the Scottish Land Commission’, is the fifth in a series of independent discussion papers from the Scottish Land Commission, aimed at stimulating discussion about making more of Scotland’s land.

The paper’s author, Dr Kirsteen Shields examines how a human rights-based approach to land use and land governance might enable Scotland to make better use of its land. She explores how The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 embodies an understanding of land as a national asset to serve the common good and illustrates how the Act has already advanced human rights in Scotland by

  • strengthening community rights to buy
  • improving transparency of ownership and
  • protecting the rights of tenants and small farmers.

She also considers four concrete examples that directly link to the four pillars of the Land Commission’s work and considers the positive human rights impact that land reform could make in each.

For example, Dr Shields draws on international experience to argue that redeveloping Scotland’s vacant and derelict land could progress human rights by creating space for affordable homes (progressing the right to housing) or community greenspaces (progressing the right to health).

And she illustrates how the Land Commission’s work can help improve human rights for tenant farmers by ensuring that the sector is better regulated and introducing new codes of conduct that clarify the rights and responsibilities of landowners and tenants.

Speaking about the discussion paper, Dr Shields said,

“Land reform has enormous potential to contribute to the realisation of human rights in Scotland….There was previously a common misunderstanding that the human rights dimension of land reform was the right to property.”

Dr Shields points out that these are “neglected areas of land governance that will require new legal pathways and real cooperation to navigate.”

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

“Human rights underpins all areas of the Commission’s work and it is inherent in Scotland’s framework for land reform.

“The emphasis on the realisation of economic, social and cultural human rights will run through all of our work over the coming years with a particular focus on tackling constraints in the availability of land for housing, addressing issues of land ownership, democratising land use decision making and creating a better functioning system of tenanted farm land.“

Discussion paper looks at increasing availability of agricultural land for new entrants

A simpler and more intelligible framework is now required in Scotland to open up the farming letting sector again and promote farming as a viable option for the next generation.

That’s the message in a new paper, ‘Encouraging agricultural lettings in Scotland for the 21st Century’, the fourth in a series of independent discussion papers from the Scottish Land Commission, aimed at stimulating debate about making more of Scotland’s land.

The framework needs to include both simpler tenancy law and a more commercial, business-minded and flexible approach to unlock more land for farm lettings.

In the paper, the author Jeremy Moody, maps the decline in the tenanted farming sector over the past century and the current, complex environment of different and sometimes overlapping, rules.

He assesses the past and current issues facing landlords and tenants including the perception among landlords that land letting is ‘high risk and low return’ and considers wider questions around the political climate and future changes in the context of Brexit.

The paper puts forward a number of proposals including a new income tax relief as an innovative way of addressing increasing land availability. This tax-based approach, seems likely to release more land; evidence from the Republic of Ireland suggests a significant increase in lettings there, following the adoption of a similar relief in 2015.

The paper’s author argues that letting is declining in Scotland despite a strong demand for access to land from new entrants and existing farmers needing to expand or improve the viability of their enterprises.

The Land Commission’s Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, said:

“For a thriving tenant farming sector there needs to be a steady flow of new entrants to drive innovation and best practice, improve efficiencies and contribute towards the economic vitality of the sector.

“The Commission is looking at ways to stimulate the tenant farming sector and increase the availability of agricultural land. We commissioned this paper to encourage debate around the different approaches and incentives for letting of land.  We will discuss it at the next meeting of the Tenant Farming Advisory Forum in July and we’d welcome written responses by email, ahead of that meeting.

“The different approaches need to be considered alongside the work we’re doing on the current succession and retirement options for farmers and landowners.”

Speaking about his paper, Jeremy Moody said that promoting a positive attitude among both tenant farmers and landowners, “…depends on good quality relationships, with sympathy between the parties and positive approach by advisers. The approach should be to see that a good relationship for farming land should be mutually beneficial.”

Read the Land Lines discussion paper here.

New Codes of Practice to support community engagement by landowners

The Scottish Land Commission has announced today that it is developing a series of Codes of Practice for land owners, land managers and communities.

The Codes of Practice will set out what is expected for landowners, land managers and communities in engaging on decisions to do with land use. The Codes will support practical implementation of the ‘Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land’ published today, Wednesday 18 April 2018, by the Scottish Government.

The Commission is encouraging all land owners, and those with control over land, to adopt a proactive approach to engaging with communities in their plans for the land. The Codes will set out the expectations of what is reasonable and provide detail on how land owners and communities can have regard to the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement.

The first Code will be published in the summer and will focus on how landowners, land managers and local communities engage.

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

“The Scottish Land Commission is working to increase the accountability of land ownership and promoting an open approach to decision making, all of which is a vital part of modernising our system of land ownership

“We are building on what already works well in the tenant farming sector by using good practice outlined in the Codes to provide clarity to all parties.

“Working closely with stakeholders we intend to develop Codes that are short, clear, practical and fair to all parties, setting out clear expectations of what normal and reasonable behaviour is. The Codes will also provide a mechanism to notify the Commission of an alleged non-compliance by an interested party.

“Along with the Codes we will also be providing guidance and practical advice to land owners, land managers and communities through newly appointed Community Engagement Advisers, to support improved engagement and accountability.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“The Scottish Land Commission’s work to produce new Codes of Practice will greatly support the Scottish Government’s guidance for engagement between land owners and communities – resulting in greater collaboration on decisions about land.”

Scottish Land Commission to develop proposals for Compulsory Sale Orders

The Scottish Land Commission has begun work on developing proposals for a new Compulsory Sale Order power.

The Land Commission kicked off this work with a meeting of an expert advisory group on Monday 16 April 2018, to explore the opportunities and challenges that a potential Compulsory Sale Order power presents.

Compulsory Sale Orders (CSOs) would be a new legal mechanism available to local authorities to require abandoned buildings or small plots of land, that have been derelict for an undue period of time, to be sold by public auction to the highest bidder.

In 2016 there were 12,435 hectares of derelict and urban vacant land in Scotland. The Commission is working towards making more of Scotland’s land, and as part of this will be looking at the different approaches for addressing the problem of vacant and derelict land and bringing it back into productive use.

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

“The Commission was established to help create a Scotland where everybody benefits from the ownership, management, and use of Scotland’s land and buildings.

“If we want Scotland’s land to become more productive, efficient and equitable we must consider tools and mechanisms such as CSOs to address the problem of vacant and derelict land. It is envisaged that CSOs would be used to tackle abandoned buildings and small plots of vacant and derelict land in town centres and communities.

“We are working with the Scottish Government to develop proposals for a new CSO power that can then be used as the basis for consultation.

“The proposals will provide a clear description of the purpose of powers, how they might operate, the conditions under which they could be triggered and fully comply with the European Convention of Human Rights.”

Find out more about Compulsory Sale Orders on our blog.

Scottish Land Commission encourages land owners to take an open approach

The Scottish Land Commission is working to increase the accountability of land ownership and promoting an open approach to decision making.

The Commission welcomes the open approach recently adopted by Buccleuch Estates by holding a public meeting this week to address people’s concerns about their actions and plans for land.

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

“We welcome the decision by Buccleuch Estates to hold a public meeting setting out more information about their plans and to respond to the feedback and views received. The issues and context will vary widely across Scotland but we encourage all land owners to consider a similarly proactive approach to engage people in future plans and address issues where they arise.

“The Commission has a clear objective to increase the accountability of land ownership and land use decision making and we see this as a vital part of modernising our system of land ownership. To support this we will be developing codes and guidance as well as providing practical advice to land owners and communities encouraging improved engagement and accountability.”

The Land Commission’s Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, has been asked by Buccleuch Estates to look into concerns raised at the public meeting regarding the handling of negotiations with agricultural tenants over their farm leases.

Bob McIntosh said:

“The primary purpose of the Tenant Farming Commissioner is to promote good relations between landlords and tenants in the agricultural holdings sector.

“The Chief Executive of Buccleuch Estates has asked me to review how Buccleuch Estates staff have acted when dealing with some recent end of tenancy situations. I will look in to these cases to consider whether they were handled in accordance with good practice and relevant published codes and guides. I am assured that I will have full access to estate staff and records.

“My role is entirely independent and impartial. I would encourage those tenants who are unhappy with the way their situation was handled to contact me so that I can arrange to meet with them in order to fully understand their concerns. All discussions will be in confidence.”

Land Commission to look at potential for land value taxes in Scotland

The Scottish Land Commission is asking for tenders to investigate international experience in land value taxes to identify policy options for Scotland.

The Land Commission has issued a notice on Public Contracts Scotland (PCS) asking for contractors to submit tenders to carry out research in to the range of ways land value taxes have been used. This will inform future consideration of land value taxation options for Scotland based on the experiences of other countries.

Land value taxation is a tool for raising public revenue through an annual charge based on the rental value of land and typically levied against the unimproved value of that land not taking into account any buildings, services or infrastructure.

Chair of the Land Commission, Andrew Thin, said:

“Land value taxation has been an important element of the land reform debate in Scotland for several years and the Scottish Government has asked the Commission to look at the potential for land value based taxes.

“This initial work looks at how land value taxes have been used to realise relevant policy objectives elsewhere and what practical issues would need to be addressed in considering their use in Scotland.

“The work will also assess the potential of land value taxation in contributing to a more productive, accountable and diverse pattern of land ownership and use in Scotland. The final report, which is due to be submitted to the Commission in June 2018, will identify a set of potential policy options for further consideration.

“We are keen to stimulate discussion on if and how land value based taxes could help make more of Scotland’s land with stakeholders and amongst the general public. This important piece of work is the first step on that journey.”

Completed quotes must be submitted via PCS by 12:00 noon on the 19 January 2018.

Scottish Land Commission publishes first Strategic Plan

The newly formed Scottish Land Commission has published its first three year Strategic Plan.

The Land Commission published its first Strategic Plan at its conference held today, Thursday 28 September 2017, in Dunfermline.

The Strategic Plan ‘Making More of Scotland’s Land’ sets out the priorities for the Land Commission focusing on four key areas covering both urban and rural land:

  • Land for housing and development  – We want to reduce constraints to redeveloping vacant and derelict land for housing and other productive uses, improve land supply for housing and stimulate a more active approach to developing land in the public interest.
  • Land ownership – The Land Commission will examine the impacts of scale and concentration of land ownership and tax policy, as well as reviewing the effectiveness of the Community Right to Buy mechanisms.
  • Land Use Decision-making – The Land Commission will seek to improve the quality and accountability of decision making, providing guidance where necessary.
  • Agricultural Holdings – We want to increase access to land for those who want to farm, improve the relationships between landowners and tenant farmers and stimulate the tenant farming sector.

The Scottish Land Commission, established under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, has a statutory function to review and advise on legislative and policy change, but it is the leadership role the organisation can play which is as equally important as Chair of the Scottish Land Commission, Andrew Thin, explains:

“The establishment of the Scottish Land Commission has provided the Scottish people with a mechanism to drive forward land reform and this ambitious Strategic Plan shows that we are committed to accelerating the process and tackling the most important matters.

“We want to change and shape best practice for the ownership, management and use of Scotland’s land, working with all sectors to achieve changes on the ground as well as recommending changes to legislation and policy where necessary.

“Our goal is to improve the productivity, diversity and accountability of the way we use land, making more of Scotland’s land for Scotland’s people.”

Cabinet Secretary for Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said:

“Scotland’s land is one of our most valuable assets, and it is only right that everyone benefits from it. I am therefore delighted with the focus of the Commission’s Strategic Plan, which alongside the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement published today, will set the pace and direction for land reform over the years to come.”

Read our Strategic Plan