Tag: land

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.

 

 

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.