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New legislation 'to change how land is owned and managed' in rural Scotland

By Gregor White

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New legislation could change how Scotland's land is owned and managed in the future.
New legislation could change how Scotland's land is owned and managed in the future.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament last week.

It includes measures that will apply to large landholdings of over 1000 hectares, prohibiting sales in certain cases until ministers can consider the impact on the local community.

The Scottish Government says this could lead to some landholdings being lotted into smaller parts if that may help local communities.

It will also provide communities with more opportunities to own land through introducing advance notice of certain sales from large landholdings.

The Bill will also places legal responsibilities on the owners of the largest landholdings to show how they use their land and how that use contributes to key public policy priorities, such as addressing climate change and protecting and restoring nature and includes a duty on Scottish Ministers to publish a model Land Management Tenancy which will support people to use and manage land in a way that meets their, and the nation’s, needs.

It also includes a number of measures to reform tenant farming and small landholding legislation, providing more opportunities to improve land, to become more sustainable and productive and to ensure that tenants are fairly rewarded for their investment of time and resources in compensation at end of tenancy.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “We do not think it is right that ownership and control of much of Scotland’s land is still in the hands of relatively few people. We want Scotland to have a strong and dynamic relationship between its land and people.

“We want to be a nation where rights and responsibilities in relation to land and its natural capital are fully recognised and fulfilled. That was our aim in 2016, and it remains our aim today.

“So, this Bill sets out ambitious proposals to allow the benefits and opportunities of Scotland’s land to be more widely shared.

“Too often, people and communities feel powerless when the land they live on is sold with no prior warning – this Bill will help to change that. We will introduce measures so that more communities are be given information and the opportunity to take on ownership before sales from landholdings over 1,000 hectares.

“Crucially, when one of these landholdings is being sold, we want government to have the power to step in and require that it be sold in smaller parcels to different people if that will help to make local populations and communities more sustainable.”

The Scottish Land Commission, which provided research and analysis for the Land Reform Bill, introduced today by the Scottish Government, has welcomed it as "landmark legislation."

Chairman Michael Russell said: “We are pleased to welcome the publication of the Scottish Government’s new Land Reform Bill, which draws on our research and analysis.

"This landmark legislation is a meaningful and important step forward in addressing the over-concentration of land ownership, which continues to be a central issue in Scotland’s ongoing journey of land reform.

“Our research has consistently shown the pitfalls associated with such a concentration of land ownership, including the impacts that localised monopolies can have on local economic opportunities and communities.”

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