Scotland’s community land movement sets sight on further reforms


Around 100 delegates gather to push forward for further change in ownership

COMMUNITY LAND OWNERS and land reform supporters gathered last Friday [23 September] to discuss a wide range of proposals to achieve further political victories for land reform.

Community Land Scotland (CLS), which represents many of the country’s community landowners, held the conference to discuss “what next for land reform?”

The land reform debate, focused on the 2016 Land Reform Act, is now considering how the act will be introduced and what further measures can be take to change Scotland’s archaic and concentrated system of land ownership.

Chaired by Peter Peacock, CLS policy director, the event hosted government cabinet secretary Roseanna Cunningham to update the community on land reform progress.

Mike Taylor, International Land Coalition

Taylor spoke to the conference on the international context of campaigns against land grabs, and attempts to create limits on the scale of land ownership. 

He explained that: “The push for land reform only comes from challenging the vested interests of concentrated landowners.”

He explained that 65 per cent of land on earth is claimed by local communities, but only 10 per cent is legally recognised.

Megan MacInnes, human rights expert

MacInnes was a key witness encouraging the government to improve the human-rights approach to new land reform legislation.

MacInnes explained that previous debates on land reform has focused on the owners’ right to private property – but a new approach was emerging which recognised the social and economic rights which everyone is entitled to.

Professor David Adams, University of Glasgow 

Adams said it was “essential” to view land reform as a route to tackling urban inequality.

He explained that 29 per cent of Scots live within 500m of a derelict land site, but this rises to 60 per cent in the poorest areas.

“It's an ownership problem,” he explained. Land banking by private interests – waiting on land asset prices to rise – leaves the poorest parts of the country dotted with wasteland.

Adams proposed a compulsory sale order to move the nearly 13,000 derelict acres of Scotland to sale auctions.

Chris Nicholson, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

Nicholson spoke about the importance of tenanted rights to the broader land reform movement.

While there is not yet an absolute right to buy for tenants, proposals to increase the security of tenure for farmers has led to more offers for buy-outs, according to Nicholson.

Sarah-Jane Laing, Director of Policy at Scottish Land & Estates

Laing spoke about the need for clear communication and open discussion between the different interest groups in the land reform debate.

SLE represent the interests of private landowners, with members among the largest and wealthiest landowners in the country.

“We need to look at [land] taxation again,” Laing said, being open to the ongoing debate about the challenge of financial reform. Laing also raised the issue of land banking, which she said was an issue for other private industry groups beyond the big private estates.

Picture: CommonSpace

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