Land reform laws need to benefit communities

Eigg harbour web

The Isle of Eigg was bought by residents in 1997

Communities have two chances to create a fairer system of land ownership in Scotland

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10th June 2014 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Scotland’s communities need to work together to convince MSPs to introduce new land reform laws which benefit them and not rich landowners according to the chair of Community Land Scotland (CLS).

David Cameron made the call after it was revealed the Scottish Government will bring a land reform bill to parliament before the next election.

David Cameron, Community Land Scotland chair

David Cameron, Community Land Scotland chair

What is very clear is that we now have two opportunities to shape a better land future for Scotland and we need to take those opportunities

This creates the opportunity, he said, to ensure the right legislation is in place so that when communities desire to do things for themselves, laws are there to help them to do so.

The bill was announced in repsponse to the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) report, which made 62 recommendations including setting up a Community Land Agency to support more rural and urban communities to purchase land. Paul Wheelhouse, environment and climate change minister, said it would build on measures being brought forward in the forthcoming community empowerment (Scotland) bill.

Calling on communities to work together Cameron said the bills combined mean the chances to create a fairer system of land ownership in Scotland. They provide an opportunity to redress the current situation which sees just 432 owners of 50% of the private land in Scotland.

“What is very clear is that we now have two opportunities to shape a better land future for Scotland and we need to take those opportunities,” Cameron said.

“We need a strong coalition of the forces that want to see change and power given to communities to act in their own interests, as there will be many arguing for no change of any real value.”

Cameron said CLS will initially focus on the community empowerment bill which has just been introduced to parliament this week.

That bill is set to amend parts of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003 and CLS want to use it to legislate for as much of the LRRG’s recommendations as possible.

Cameron added:  “There needs to be a lot of discussion with government over the coming period to identify what can go forward within the community empowerment bill at stage two of the parliamentary process, and we want as much as possible in that.

“Those discussions need to explore the other recommendations of the LRRG which cannot be taken forward in the community empowerment bill, or can be dealt with by administrative action, or by secondary legislation.

“Whatever is left will be candidates for the second land bill. By definition that is likely to be on matters that require a bit more debate, discussion and consultation.”

Wheelhouse also announced that the Scottish Land Fund, which provides communities with grants of up to £750,000 to develop ideas to buy land, will be extended until at least 2020.

“My vision, and that of my colleagues, for Scotland is for a fairer, wider and more equitable, distribution of land across our nation, where communities and individuals have access to land and the land reform bill will enable much of this to happen,” he said.

“This [extending the Scottish Land Fund] will give greater confidence to communities to consider community land ownership and time to work up their plan.”