Calls for Scottish Government to seize opportunity of radical land reform
NEW POWERS coming into force over how Scotland’s land is owned and used should have a “radical approach” at its heart, according to the growing community land ownership movement.
Community Land Scotland (CLS), representing the community’s sector which now owns over 500,000 acres of land, have called for the implementation of the 2016 Land Reform Act to take a bold direction in responsibilities for land owners and the distribution of land ownership.
Today (Friday 10 March) marks the final day of the latest government consultation on land reform – specifically over the contents of a ‘Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement’, which is part one of the new Land Reform Act.
The statement will establish an ethos and direction for national land policy, coinciding with the development of the new public Land Commission from April this year. Although the statement is a broad policy framework, CLS believe that improving the draft version following the consultation would be an important sign that the government wants to press forward with further action on the concentration of land ownership and other land problems.
Currently just 432 interests own 50 per cent of private land in Scotland – one of the most concentrated patterns of ownership in the developed world.
A CLS spokesperson told CommonSpace: “The whole idea of setting out land responsibilities is new and opens up challenging issues for landowners, but opportunities for wider society. Scotland is the first country to attempt to do this it seems and with our archaic and unjust landownership patterns, where so few own so much, setting out the responsibilities of landowners to all of us, economically, socially, environmentally and culturally, is a powerful idea.
“While we are disappointed the first iteration of the statement does not go significantly further and be clearer about what we expect of landowners, we have set out practical ways the statement can be strengthened and improved and we hope the Scottish Government will develop the statement considerably as a result of the consultation, showing a radical approach to such land questions.”
The current draft statement presents six principles: 1) that land rights should “contribute to building a fairer society in Scotland and promote environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and social justice”, 2) “There should be an increasingly diverse and widely dispersed pattern of land ownership and tenure”, 3) support for community ownership, 4) Land owners are as “stewards” for future generations, 5) “Information on land should be publicly available, clear, and detailed”, and 6) “There should be wide community engagement in decisions about land.”
When a further draft of the statement is completed, it will be presented to parliament. The statement is scheduled to come into force in October 2017. There is also an obligation to review the statement every five years.
Land reform campaigners pressed the government throughout 2015 and 2016 to strengthen proposals on land ownership, transparency over the 750,000 acres of Scottish land registered in tax havens, the use and taxation of derelict land, and support for community ownership.
Picture courtesy of Eloise Smith-Foster
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