Land Reform (Scotland) Bill (UK)

This Bill is an important legislative proposal of the Scottish Parliament (introduced in 2015, and, subject to scrutiny beginning today 20th January 2016), it sets out to legislate to:

  1. make provision for a land rights and responsibilities statement; 
  2. establish the Scottish Land Commission, provide for its functions and the functions of the Land Commissioners and the Tenant Farming Commissioner; 
  3. make provision about access to, and provision of, information about owners and controllers of land; 
  4. make provision about engaging communities in decisions relating to land; 
  5. enable certain persons to buy land to further sustainable development;
  6. make provision for non-domestic rates to be levied on shootings and deer forests;
  7. make provision about the change of use of common good land; 
  8. make provision about the management of deer on land; 
  9. make provision about access rights to land; and
  10. amend the law on agricultural holdings to:
  • provide for a new form of agricultural tenancy, 
  • remove the requirement to register before tenants of certain holdings can exercise a right to buy,
  • provide a new power of sale where a landlord is in breach of certain obligations, 
  • provide about rent reviews, 
  • expand the list of the persons to whom holdings can be assigned or bequeathed and to whom holdings can be transferred on intestacy and make provision about landlords’ objections to such successor tenants, 
  • provide for a 2 year amnesty period in relation to certain improvements carried out by tenants, and provide for notice of certain improvements proposed by landlords.

Restriction on foreign ownership – the Bill does not contain any provisions which would restrict foreign owners from owning land in Scotland, in furtherance of the policy objective of the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG). Instead the Bill contains provision in relation to information about those who control land.

Limit on the amount of land that may be owned – the Bill does not contain any restriction on the maximum amount of land that may be owned. In response to the LRRG’s recommendation on this topic, the Scottish Government indicated that they would require”significant evidence…in order to ensure [European Court of Human Rights ECHR compliance]…” Presumably the view of the Scottish Government is that any such proposal would run contrary to ECHR requirements.

Duties on charity trustees – the Scottish Government mooted the possibility of placing a duty on charity trustees to consider the effect of a transfer of land on the relevant community. These proposals have not been carried forward in the Bill. However, in terms of the community engagement guidance which the Scottish Ministers are to produce, the Scottish Government suggest in the policy memorandum that failure of charity trustees to adhere to the guidance may be a matter which the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator could pursue.

Further extensive amendments are proposed for the Stage 2 debate commencing now.

Progress on the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill is found here. The Stage 2 amendments are found at the base of the page.

Land Reform (Scotland)

Published May 2014 – Land Reform Review Group Final Report – The Land of Scotland and the Common Good

This is the final report of the independent Land Reform Review Group set up by the Scottish Government in 2012.

The Review Group’s remit is to examine the role of Scotland’s system of land ownership in the relationship between the people and land of Scotland, and make proposals for land reform measures that would:-

“* Enable more people in rural and urban Scotland to have a stake in the ownership, governance, management and use of land, which will lead to a greater diversity of land ownership, and ownership types, in Scotland

* Assist with the acquisition and management of land (and also land assets) by communities, to make stronger, more resilient, and independent communities which have an even greater stake in their development

* Generate, support, promote, and deliver new relationships between land, people, economy and environment in Scotland”

The Report has nine Parts. In the first, the Group sets the context for the rest of the Report by clarifying the scope of the Group’s review and defining its use of terms including, for example, what is meant in the Report by ‘the public interest’. The Report then has seven main Parts, 2-8, dealing with the main land reform issues considered by the Group. In Part 9, the conclusions from those Parts are discussed in terms of the three broad objectives in the Group’s remit, and there is a summary list of the Group’s Conclusions and Recommendations from each Part of the Report.