The Land Reform Bill 2023: the need for action
We have concerns that, as it stands, the Land Reform Bill will fail to deliver any of its proposed outcomes and will not match the ambitious language of party election manifestos. We set out the four core issues which need to be effectively addressed so that this Land Reform Bill delivers for all the communities of Scotland.
The Need for Action
As we approach the time when the new Land Reform Bill will be introduced to Parliament, we have an important opportunity to ensure that this legislation delivers on the ambitious language of party election manifestos. We agree with the Scottish Government that there is a pressing need for ‘a more diverse pattern of land ownership and tenure and that a significantly higher proportion of land should be owned in Scotland by the communities that live and work there.’ There is a tremendous opportunity in this year’s Land Reform Bill to create the conditions for a greener, fairer and wealthier Scotland. We believe that a just transition to net zero, building community wealth, repeopling our rural areas and a just response to the climate and biodiversity crises are dependent on the delivery of significantly more land reforms.
However as representatives of Scotland community landowning sector, Community Land Scotland has concerns that, as it stands, the legislation will fail to deliver any of the proposed outcomes for the Bill. It will see urban areas being excluded from the many land reform advances already made and undermine the intentions of the Parliament under the 2015 Community Empowerment Act that all Scotland’s communities should enjoy the same land rights. Furthermore, without adjustments to the current Communities Right to Buy, the current market and monopoly impacts (outlined clearly by the recent Scottish Land Commission report) will continue to prevent communities (and other smaller owners/ farmers/ crofters) from buying land and assets.
We are calling for 4 core issues to be effectively addressed in the Land Reform Bill. These will ensure equality of access for all communities:
1. All communities across Scotland must be able to access the proposed benefits of the Bill – including a right for Public Interest Tests on land and assets of significance to communities and the rights to Notifications of Sale and Statutory Land Rights and Responsibilities Statements.
2. The threshold of ‘large scale landholding’ needs to be reduced from the planned 3000 Ha to 500ha.
3. Community Right to Buy legislation needs to be amended so that it is fit for purpose and ensures the proposed Public Interest Test and Prior Notification of Sale are effective.
4. There should be a presumed limit on landownership of 500ha (individually or combined), any holding above that needs to demonstrate that the ownership and scale of holdings serves the public interest.
Read more on our proposals in the attached document.