Scottish Government to make 50 changes to land reform bill

The Scottish Government is to make almost 50 changes to its flagship land reform legislation.

Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Environment minister Aileen McLeod is putting forward a total of 49 amendments which she said would ensure the proposals are “far-reaching and best-deliver for the people of Scotland”.

It comes after MSPs on Holyrood’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) insisted the Land Reform Bill ‘’must be enhanced and strengthened if it is to achieve its aims’’.

The amendments will make it clear the purpose of the legislation is to set out overarching principles on land rights and responsibilities in Scotland.

If passed, the Bill will end business rate exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates, give communities a right to buy land to help sustainable development and make information on who owns land and its value more readily available to the public.

But SNP members at the party’s conference last October rejected the plans for not going far enough.

Ms McLeod said: “We are strengthening an already radical Land Reform Bill - which will result in fundamental improvements in how land in Scotland is owned, used and managed.

“These amendments will help ensure the provisions in the Bill are far-reaching and best-deliver for the people of Scotland.

“This strengthened Bill will change the relationship between the people of Scotland and the land that we live, work and depend on.

“As I have said before, I am open to ideas and suggestions relating to Scotland’s land reform journey and will continue to listen to all the evidence and will consider any further suggestions.

“I will also continue to work with all those with an interest to ensure that our land benefits the people of Scotland for generations to come.”

The amendments set out to recognise the importance of experience in land management and community empowerment when appointing members of the Land Commission, and also aim to increase the accountability of ministers to the public.

Landowners said the changes must also protect their interests by preventing the enforced sale of well-managed estates.

David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “It is in everyone’s interests to see Scotland’s rural economy flourishing and part of that process includes protecting land-based businesses that are managing their land assets both sustainably and productively.

“We support community ownership where there is a willing buyer and seller, and indeed where the land has been clearly found to be neglected or abandoned.

“We would appeal for parliamentarians to seek amendments that can protect the interests of landowners and tenants who are clearly fulfilling the aim of managing land well.”

Mr Johnstone insisted landowners supported measures to make land ownership more transparent, saying while there had been claims they had lobbied against this, “nothing could be further from the truth” .

He added: “Scottish Land and Estates has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that ownership of land is visible and that those who manage land are accessible and contactable.”