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Community Land Scotland

Briefing: Land Reform for a Sustainable Scotland

Community Land Scotland (CLS) has sent a briefing paper to MSPs returning to Holyrood next week urging them to view further land reform as a vital tool in addressing the sheer enormity of this dual challenge.

The CLS briefing paper follows a commitment for a new Land Reform Bill by the end of 2023 contained in the draft Shared Policy Programme published by the Scottish Government and Scottish Greens last week.

CLS has welcomed the prospect of a public interest test to apply to transfers of large scale land holdings, and a right of pre-emption in favour of community buy out where the public interest test applies, being contained in the new Land Reform Bill.   It views these measures as essential to help diversify Scotland’s unusually concentrated pattern of rural land ownership.  67% of that land has been calculated as being owned by 0.025% of the population.

The CLS briefing paper cites recommendations from recent reports by the Scottish Land Commission, the Just Transition Commission, Scotland’s Climate Assembly and the Social Renewal Advisory Board which support the case for further land reform.  It also reminds MSPs that in 2019 the Scottish Parliament passed a motion urging the Government to “deliver a more equitable distribution in the ownership of Scotland’s land assets in the public interest.”  The briefing paper asserts that there is widespread public backing for further land reform.  It quotes recent Scottish Government research showing that 71% of survey respondents supported widening ownership of both rural and urban land to include more public, community and third sector ownership, while only 7% opposed that aim.

The briefing paper highlights that prospective purchasers of large estates, including corporations, private individuals and institutional and absentee investors, are increasingly attracted by the considerable public subsidies and the lucrative market in carbon credits now available to landowners. But giving already wealthy ‘green lairds’ more money in an overheating and unregulated land market with no thought for community benefits does not chime with the Scottish Government’s commitment to ‘a just transition’ to a net zero carbon economy, the paper argues.