Land reform in Scotland '˜could boost human rights'

Land reform in Scotland has the potential to further improve human rights scross the country, a research paper has suggested.

The SLC is working to create a better functioning system of tenanted farm land. Picture: TSPL

Placing the economic, social and cultural rights of individuals at the heart of land reform could help deliver more affordable housing, the discussion paper for the Scottish Land Commission (SLC) found.

It would mean moving away from a perception that the only human rights dimension of land reform is the right to own property.

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The paper’s author, Dr Kirsteen Shields, examined how the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 embodied an “understanding of land as a national asset to serve the common good” and illustrates how the legislation has already advanced human rights by strengthening community rights to buy and improving transparency of ownership.

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The SLC, which is backed by the Scottish Government, last year commissioned a series of independent discussion papers on key land reform issues, with the intention of stimulating public debate and informing the organisation’s longer-term priorities.

Dr Shields drew on international experience to argue that redeveloping Scotland’s vacant and derelict land could progress human rights by creating space for affordable homes or community greenspaces.

She said: “Land reform has enormous potential to contribute to the realisation of human rights in Scotland. There was previously a common misunderstanding that the human rights dimension of land reform was the right to property.”

She added these are “neglected areas of land governance that will require new legal pathways and real cooperation to navigate.”

Chairman of the Scottish Land Commission, Andrew Thin, said: “Human rights underpins all areas of the commission’s work and it is inherent in Scotland’s framework for land reform.

“The emphasis on the realisation of economic, social and cultural human rights will run through all of our work over the coming years with a particular focus on tackling constraints in the availability of land for housing, addressing issues of land ownership, democratising land use decision making and creating a better functioning system of tenanted farm land.“