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People in Scotland can have their say on land

Andrew Thin

The Scottish Government has launched a public consultation on proposals for the new Land Reform Bill, which is open until 30 October. We are encouraging people to respond to help shape the next step of Scotland’s land reform journey, and our Chair and Land Commissioners share their thoughts on why it's important to get involved in a new series of blogs. The first blog is from our Chair, Andrew Thin.

Horrific footage of wildfires destroying vast tracts of land across Europe and the water scarcity issues being felt across Scotland and the UK, underlines the urgent need for action to tackle the climate emergency.

The ways in which land is owned and used is central to tackling the climate emergency and contributes to a successful economy while supporting diverse communities.

Over the last five years, the Scottish Land Commission has been working to provide a robust evidence base to support recommendations for making land work better in the public interest and to highlight the opportunities that land reform can bring to Scotland and its people.

Now everyone in Scotland can make a meaningful contribution to the debate by taking part in the consultation on the upcoming Land Reform Bill recently launched by Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government’s Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement (LRRS) sets out practical advice on how landowners, land managers and communities can work together to make better and fairer decisions about land use.

One of the recommendations to be considered for inclusion in the Land Reform Bill is to strengthen the LRRS and to make it a legal duty for large scale landowners to comply with the associated codes and protocols.

There are long-standing concerns about the highly concentrated pattern of land ownership in rural areas of Scotland and the monopoly of power this creates. The proposals in the consultation include the introduction of a public interest test for the transfer of large scale landholdings and a requirement on owners to give prior notice to community bodies if they intend to sell.

There would also be greater transparency on who owns Scotland’s land if a proposed measure was adopted, which would require those benefiting from public funding and seeking subsidies to have land listed in the Land Register.

A small number of people own a large proportion of Scotland’s land which places these individuals in potentially very powerful positions. When the owner of a large piece of land is not behaving in the public interest, it means they are not making the most of that land for the benefit of Scotland’s people – the consultation includes measures to deal with those situations.

The way we own, manage and use our land can rise to today’s challenges around net zero, nature restoration and a just transition. The Scottish Land Commission has pulled together all of the Commission's research and evidence, proposals and quick guides to provide the background information to the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill consultation and these can be found here on our website.

To get the balance right it is important that Scottish Government is able to consider a wide range of views and I would urge people to make their own contribution by visiting Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation, which remains open until 30 October.

Andrew Thin, Chair of the Scottish Land Commission

This blog first appeared as an op-ed in The Herald.