Following the recent consultation on the workings of the Scottish Land Court and the Scottish Lands Tribunal, Scottish Ministers concluded that the two bodies should be unified to form an expanded Land Court, claiming that such a move would offer substantial benefits to court users.
Prior to the proposed change the Lands Tribunal held jurisdiction over land and property in Scotland relating to title obligations, compulsory purchase and other private rights, while the Scottish Land Court acted as a court of law with a focus on agricultural matters, with authority to resolve a range of disputes, including those between landlords and tenants, in both agriculture and crofting.
Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham, said that joining the two bodies would provide a more streamlined service with personnel from each body being deployed flexibly.
“Having one legal body for the resolution of land cases will result in an immediate improvement making the process simpler, clearer and easier for those who need it,” she said.
Claiming that the Court would continue to provide a unique, flexible and responsive approach to the needs of the rural community, she said that legislation would be brought forward to enact the change during the life of the current Parliament, subject to Parliamentary approval.
“This is very good news for users of the Scottish Land Court and the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. Incorporating the two bodies into an expanded Scottish Land Court is an important step forward in providing a more efficient service and offering greater clarity to those who presently use them.”
She said that users would be able to benefit from a one-stop shop, providing a more streamlined process that would be clearer and easier to understand and navigate.
However she added that while modernisation would deliver significant improvements, it was also important that the traditional character of both bodies were retained by the reformed court.
Lord Minginish, who currently fills the dual role of chairing the Scottish Land Court and presiding over the Lands Tribunal for Scotland, said he was delighted about the unification of the two bodies over which he presided.
He said that as well as providing a more streamlined service, the move would put an end to current statutory anomalies whereby certain questions could get referred from one body to the other.
The practical benefits of the move were also welcomed by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, but the organisation’s Angus McCall said that the need remained to review some of the procedures of the Land Court, especially the way in which practical points could be turned into lengthy legal arguments in rent review cases and the allocation of expenses
“In recent years two landmark cases saw legal costs totalling over £300,000 awarded, the possibility of which acts as a major disincentive to tenants going to the court,” he said.