Mountains woods and river

Land Reform in Scotland

Dr Aileen McLeod – Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

The Royal Scottish Geographical Society will recognise more than most the importance that land has in shaping our lives, opportunities and future. Geography, after all, is about more than physical landscapes, but about development, population dynamics, health, trade, inequality, the biosphere, ecosystems, natural resources, energy, urbanisation and sustainability – all issues relevant to the debate over land reform.

Since devolution land reform has been the focus to achieving a number of ambitions around fairness, equality, and social justice for the people of Scotland.

The Land Reform Bill is a culmination of years of work and a significant step forward in ensuring our land is owned and used in the public interest and to the benefit of the people of Scotland. The Bill supports the existing work to pass power to people and local communities. Underpinning the Bill is an ambition to fundamentally change the framework of legal and social rights and responsibilities that determine how our land is used and governed, and the benefits our land can bring to our economy and our communities. Effective land reform aims to ensure the correct balance of land rights and how this can be managed to best deliver for the people of Scotland.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill will be potentially life-changing for individuals and communities across Scotland. This ambitious and radical Bill is a big step for radical change in how Scotland’s land is owned, used, governed and managed to best deliver for the people of Scotland.

This Bill is not the end point in Scotland’s land reform journey but is a vital next step in a much wider and on-going programme of reform across urban and rural Scotland. This Bill encourages and supports responsible and diverse land ownership and ensure communities have a say in how land in their area is used.

The measures in the Bill make 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. We want to modernise the legal framework of rights and responsibilities around land.

Its most far reaching proposals include a right to buy land to allow communities to further their own sustainable development and to make vital changes to the tenant farming sector. The creation of a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement and the establishment of a dedicated and permanent Scottish Land Commission, which will ensure focus is maintained, underlines our commitment as a government to land reform by putting an end to the stop start nature of land reform that has limited progress in Scotland.

As the Bill makes its way through Parliament, I am continuing to listen to all the evidence and will consider any suggestions to improve and strengthen the proposals in the Bill as it progresses. I am open to ideas and suggestions relating to Scotland’s land reform journey and will continue to work with all those with an interest to ensure that our land benefits the people of Scotland for generations to come.

I believe the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill will fundamentally change the relationship between the people of Scotland and the land that we live, work and depend on, making it easier for communities to influence and take ownership and control of the land on which their livelihoods – now and in the future – depend.