New land body to reveal land ownership in Scotland

Greens candidate Andy Wightman at Edinburgh Waterfront
Greens candidate Andy Wightman at Edinburgh Waterfront
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The thorny issue of land ownership in Scotland and its large concentration in the hands of a few is to be probed by the new Scottish Land Commission.

The new body unveiled its first Strategic Plan yesterday setting out the key areas it will look at over the next three years, including land ownership in Scotland.

Scotland has one of the highest concentrations of land held by a few rich owners in Europe, with estimates that fewer than 500 people own half of all privately-owned land in Scotland.

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SLC chief executive Hamish Trench said yesterday that it is to undertake research looking at the approaches other countries have taken in “controlling land ownership” and the impact this has.

“This research will be used to inform future discussions about how the diversity of land ownership could be increased in Scotland, ” he said.

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The commission is expected to make recommendations to ministers within 18 months, which could lead to even more significant changes in land law.

Analysis by land reform campaigner and now Green MSP Andy Wightman has estimated that half of the privately-owned land is in the hands of 432 people.

Mr Trench added: “We want to get behind some of the headline figures and understand what the impacts are, what the implications are of both scale and concentration in land ownership.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland’s land is one of our most valuable assets, and it is only right that everyone benefits from it.

“I am therefore delighted with the focus of the Commission’s Strategic Plan, which alongside the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement published today, will set the pace and direction for land reform over the years to come.”

The Strategic Plan, entitled `Making More of Scotland’s Land’, sets out plans to examine land use for housing and development. It will also review the effectiveness of the Community Right to Buy mechanisms. Improvements will also be sought in the quality and accountability of decision making, providing guidance where necessary.

Work will also be undertake to increase access to land for those who want to farm.

SCL chairman Andrew Thin said: “Our goal is to improve the productivity, diversity and accountability of the way we use land, making more of Scotland’s land for Scotland’s ­people.”