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Land Settlement Act Centenary sees momentum for change growing

As Scotland marks the Centenary of the Land Settlement Act, the Scottish Land Commission says more reform to land ownership and land use is needed, to make the most of Scotland’s land for the benefit of all.

This month, December 2019, marks 100 years since the Land Settlement Act in Scotland.

The Act aimed to resettle populations following the end of the First World War through the creation of smallholdings and crofts. 

As a result, a great deal of resettlement was made possible in areas that had suffered population declines over previous years, for example, the settlement of 67 previously landless families from Harris and Lewis at Portnalong which is now a populated and thriving township. 

To mark the Centenary, the Land Commission is publishing a paper – Repeopling Emptied Places – by Professor Jim Hunter. This examines the impact the Act had, its long term legacy and what we can learn from it in addressing the population challenge now facing some of Scotland’s most fragile rural communities.

Jessie and Murdo Macdonald moved into a croft in Galson made available through the Land Settlement Act

Commenting on the Centenary, Andrew Thin, Chair of the Land Commission said: “Many see the Act as being a significant piece of land reform for Scotland. Land reform is not a new thing. Now, when we are faced with declining populations in some of our most fragile rural communities, we should reflect on the legacy of the 1919 Act and challenge ourselves to find today’s equivalent solutions”.

“The momentum for change is growing, with a focus on population challenges in the new Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 and a commitment to ‘increasing the population of the rural areas of Scotland’.”

Andrew Thin pointed out that the way we own and use land is fundamental to realising Scotland’s ambitions for fairer and greener economy: “Land availability in the right place at the right price, is core to securing long term renewal of remote rural populations, and land ownership is key to making this happen. 

“The way we own and use land is central to big public policy challenges including climate action, productivity, and inclusive growth.

“Reforms to both land ownership and use are needed to unlock opportunities for inclusive growth and to make the most of our land for everyone.”

During 2020 the Land Commission will continue to investigate how new approaches to land ownership and governance models can help to increase access to land and support sustainable communities as part of the ongoing programme of land reform. 

Centenary of the Land Settlement Act 1919 In conversation with Jim Hunter