Monopoly exercise of landowner power is an affront to a modern, democratic and socially progressive Scotland, says Community Land Scotland.

It is an affront to Scotland in the 21st century that the owners of large estates can still have their tenants living in fear of eviction or other forms of retribution, according to the national umbrella body for community
buyouts.

Community Land Scotland (CLS) is calling on MSPs to act following the publication today of a Scottish Land Commission report on Large Scale and Concentrated Land Ownership in Scotland

Over 80% of Scotland is privately owned and around half of that private land is estimated to be in the hands of fewer than 500 owners. The Commission’s report paints a bleak picture of the reality of life for some who live on these estates.

According to CLS’s Policy Director, Dr Calum MacLeod it was particularly disturbing to read of fears of repercussions for “going against the landowner” being expressed by some people in their evidence. Fears
rooted, as the Commission’s report notes, “in the perceived ability of landowners to inflict consequences such as eviction or blacklisting for employment/contracts on residents should they so wish”.

Dr MacLeod said that the report also highlighted a worryingly common narrative of landowner power to control the supply of housing as being a “key driver of depopulation and economic decline”. This starkly
reinforced the scope for concentrated land ownership to have a corrosive effect on rural communities’ sustainability.

He said “We wholeheartedly endorse the Commission report’s finding that the exercise of landowner power in these ways has no place in a modern, democratic and socially progressive Scotland. Indeed it should be
viewed as an affront to such a society”. He said it was a cruel contrast to life in these communities which CLS represented from the Outer Isles to the Clyde. They had taken control of their own land and now manage almost 600,000 acres in the interests of local residents

“Places like Eigg, Knoydart, Gigha, North and West Harris, first and foremost pursued a community buyout to stem the tide of depopulation, and by and large they have succeeded. But as things stand not every
community has the opportunity to acquire their local land”, Dr MacLeod said “That’s why CLS welcomes the Scottish Land Commission’s recommendations to introduce a Public Interest Test for significant land transfers/acquisitions. This could block the sale of any large area of land which would not be in the interests of local residents or the wider community. There have been too many examples where these have not been well served by land deals down the years.”

He also welcomed the recommendation to legislate for a new Land Rights and Responsibilities review process; and that the forthcoming Community Right to Buy’s emphasis on furthering sustainable development should take account of the effects of concentrated land ownership. “We stand ready to work with Government, the Scottish Land Commission and other stakeholders to ensure that the report’s recommendations are implemented. The Scottish Land Commission’s report shines a light on the negative impacts of Scotland’s highly concentrated pattern of land ownership and ways in which the exercise of landowner power has damaging consequences for communities’ sustainability and wellbeing.”

“It reinforces the urgent need for a much more diverse pattern of land ownership in Scotland that delivers land use outcomes providing real economic, social and environmental benefits to communities’ in their
everyday lives. Continuing to develop a progressive land reform agenda for Scotland, based on the ownership and use of land in the public interest and for the common good is central to achieving that goal”,Dr MacLeod said.

Contact:
Dr Calum MacLeod (Policy Director, Community Land Scotland)
Mobile: 07974829149
Email: calum.macleod@communitylandscotland.org.uk

Notes to Editors

Community Land Scotland is the membership organisation for Scotland’s community landowners.
https://www.communitylandscotland.org.uk/

The Scottish Land Commission was established as a result of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 to advise Scottish Ministers on how best to proceed with their land reform agenda. https://landcommission.gov.scot/