Scottish Land Commission recommends public interest test for significant land transfer
A public interest test for significant land transfer should be enshrined in statute, a report published today recommends.
Most of the disadvantages associated with Scotland’s current pattern of land ownership stem from a concentration of social, economic and decision-making power, according to the Scottish Land Commission’s report Investigation into the issues associated with Large Scale and Concentrated Land Ownership in Scotland.
The report is published alongside a set of recommendations to Scottish government ministers, who had asked the commission to examine these issues.
A key finding of the report is that most of the disadvantages associated with Scotland’s current pattern of land ownership relate to a concentration of social, economic and decision-making power, not simply the size of landholdings.
The commission recommends the introduction of a public interest test and approval mechanism at the point of significant land transfer, an obligation for larger land holdings to engage on and publish a management plan, and a review mechanism to address the adverse impact on communities where responsible management approaches are not effective.
Hamish Trench, CEO of the Scottish Land Commission, said: “Concern about the impact of concentrated land ownership in Scotland has long been central to the land reform debate. This evidence report allows us to move on from debating whether ownership is an issue, to understanding what the issues are and how they can be addressed.”
He added: “These reforms seek to address the issues of concentrated land ownership using ways that are normal in other countries and economic sectors. It is common in international practice to have some form of approval measures at point of land transaction and we are also used to regulating the concentration of market power and monopoly positions in other sectors of the economy.”
Malcolm Combe, senior lecturer in law at Aberdeen University, told Scottish Legal News: “For those who have been following the Scottish land reform debate for a while, the contents of the report might not be a huge surprise, with its highlighting of matters such as the concentration of land owners in some rural areas and possible monopoly-like effects large land owners can have on local communities.
“The report does offer a new, accessible entry point to the debate and gathers things together nicely, and the press coverage it has already generated shows that the Scottish Land Commission is doing the right things to fulfil its statutory function and get people thinking about Scotland’s land.”