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2022 has landed – a look ahead at the coming year

Hamish Trench

Chief Executive Hamish Trench looks ahead to the Commission’s focus in 2022.

After a busy close to last year, it feels good to pause and look to what lies ahead for the Scottish Land Commission in 2022. Last year saw us publish reports and proposals on major areas of work including concentrated land ownership and housing land supply, as well as continued development of our practical support for implementing Scotland’s land rights and responsibilities principles. It also saw the start of a major new focus on the implications of emerging carbon and natural capital value in Scotland’s land.

As we start 2022, the Scottish Government is consulting on a review of the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, a fundamental reference point for land reform in Scotland. We will be contributing our experience of implementation to date and will continue to help strengthen the practical realisation of these rights and responsibilities on the ground through our Good Practice Programme.

We can also expect the Scottish Government to start engaging on the planned Land Reform Bill, including the proposal for a public interest test to apply to particularly large land transfers. The Commission will provide advice to government, parliament and stakeholders, drawing on our research, evidence and published proposals for land ownership.

What Scotland’s land rights and responsibilities and the public interest mean in practice are put in sharp focus by the very live discussions about new value in land associated with carbon and natural capital. This theme remains a priority for the Commission’s work as we start the new year. We have a study underway to improve understanding of the implications in the rural land market, looking at the number, type, value and motivation for land transactions. This will lead to current market insight as well as improved market reporting in future to inform policy.

We will be engaging with stakeholders on a new Protocol setting out expectations for responsible practice in relation to natural capital investment and land ownership. We will also be looking specifically at the opportunities and mechanisms to ensure that emerging and potential future value from carbon and natural capital benefits local communities and economies. In making a just transition to the net zero economy, the question of who benefits and how is central.

More widely, we will continue work supporting the Government’s ambition to increase diversity of land ownership, advising on finance options to complement the Scottish Land Fund and opportunities to support diversified ownership in practice. Later this month we will be publishing a report on the role of taxation in relation to land reform. This will consider options within devolved powers and offer advice to Scottish Ministers on where we think opportunities for reform lie.

With a Parliament focusing on big shifts including the net zero economy, community wealth building, human rights, and post-Brexit agricultural support, how we own and use land has a big part to play in driving delivery of these ambitions. We’ll be engaging, for example, in how land reform works alongside planning reform in delivering the new National Planning Framework’s priorities for housing, regeneration, rural repopulation and the net zero economy.

We will of course be continuing our programme of online public meetings this year. These are an important opportunity for us to hear about the land questions, local examples, and opportunities that matter to people in communities and places across Scotland. Please do join us at one of these meetings if you can and keep an eye on our website for the latest news.


Snowy scene in Assynt