‘Landmark’ land reform legislation passed

Aileen McLeod
Aileen McLeod

Legislation to transform how land is used and governed has been passed by the Scottish Parliament, although the Bill has been labelled a “missed opportunity” to help increase housebuilding.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill will allow ministers to create a public register of those with a controlling interest in land, meant to increase the transparency around land ownership.

It is also intended to address issues of fairness, equality and social justice connected to the ownership of, access to and use of land in Scotland and introduce a new process to sell or assign farm tenancies, creating a secure route out of farming for those without a successor.

Ahead of yesterday’s vote, the Scottish Government announced a £10 million annual Scottish Land Fund to help communities buy the land they live and work on.

More than 100 amendments were discussed during a lengthy debate at Holyrood, before MSPs voted 102 to 14 to approve it. Labour backed the SNP over the proposals, while the Conservatives voted against them.

The Scottish Greens pledged to keep up the fight for bold land reform after its derelict land amendments, which the party had previously said would have helped increase housebuilding, were voted down during the debate.

Andy Wightman, land reform spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said: “It’s disappointing to see an opportunity missed on derelict land. Taxing such land could generate hundreds of millions of pounds, which Greens would use to tackle Scotland’s housing crisis. The SNP are promising a consultation but this is action they could be taking now. Their reluctance speaks volumes about their desire to control from the centre rather than empower at a local level.”

Speaking after the stage three debate on the bill, land reform minister Aileen McLeod said: “The passing of the Land Reform Bill is a landmark moment in our land reform journey. It is a result of many years of work to ensure our land is owned and used in the public interest and for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

“This radical legislation will make important changes to specific rights and responsibilities over land, including provisions to increase the transparency of land ownership, which have never before been seen in this country. It will allow us to provide guidance to landowners and tenants and allow communities to be involved when decisions are taken about land. The Bill will also remove the existing exemption of business rates for shooting estates and deer forests.

“This is a significant next step, but is not the end of our land reform journey - I want to do even more to help future generations benefit from our land. Going forward we will establish the Scottish Land Commission, publish a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement and continue our work towards our one million acre target to community ownership by 2020.”

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