Following publication of an interim report today by the Land Reform Review Group, Scottish Land & Estates issued the statement below.
Chairman Luke Borwick said: “The Land Reform Review Group has itself made clear that there are numerous important issues to be addressed in the next stage of its work. As an organisation that has engaged positively in the land reform review process from the outset, we will continue to work with the group to deliver outcomes that will be of benefit to rural Scotland, and which recognise the significant contribution made by those who own and manage rural land and property across Scotland .
“Scottish Land & Estates made a number of progressive recommendations to the LRRG and we are pleased that many of these are reflected in the interim report, particularly in terms of continuing to develop effective community engagement. Defining the desired outcomes for communities, along with the appropriate ways of achieving those outcomes, must be central to an effective community planning framework, and we would urge the LRRG to carry out further work in this area.
“We agree with the group that in terms of agricultural tenancy matters, the industry is best placed to address these through existing structures such as the Tenant Farming Forum and we remain active and committed members of the TFF.
“Scottish land & Estates remains disappointed at the persisting view that the pattern of land ownership in Scotland is unfair and unjust. The group has rightly stated that this pattern is varied but at the same time suggests there is something inherently wrong with the existing system. Our members have clearly demonstrated that they are delivering economic, social and environmental benefits. There are opportunities for all, without restriction, to join the many thousands who already own and manage land and property at all scales across Scotland.
“Despite our members’ transparency, the report stills refers to a need for greater scrutiny of private landowners. We feel that this is totally unjustified. Private land and property owners already operate within an onerous regulatory environment involving significant scrutiny from a range of agencies and bodies. Whilst we are fully supportive of promoting good practice in terms of community engagement, we cannot support calls for the introduction of mandatory standards and sanctions for non compliance. This would be prohibitively expensive for businesses at a time when the fragile rural economy is struggling. There must be flexibility to allow communities and landowners of all scales to develop the most appropriate approach to engagement.
“We fully support a wide variety of community involvement and ownership models and support the principle of extending the existing community right to buy provisions to urban areas. However, our position remains that the sale of an asset should be on the basis of willing seller, willing buyer, and would not support any form of enforced asset transfer. This is particularly relevant in relation to the suggested creation of a Land Agency. We support assistance to parties to consider options for community involvement, and the facilitation of an amicable purchase of land by a community, but we would not support the establishment of a new body to carry out this role.
“It is surprising that that the LRRG is perplexed at the lack of interest in land reform in many parts of Scotland. In our view, the answer is straightforward. There is no evidence that significant demand for land reform exists in much of Scotland and we should guard against the tendency to manufacture demand, particularly if that were to put further pressure on the public purse.
“We welcome the fact that the group has recognised that there are many ways in which communities can secure a greater say in the use of land, without necessarily owning it. We have provided many examples of partnership working between estates and communities, and are delighted that identifying good practice will be a key part of the LRRG’s Phase 2 work, as well as identifying what does not work well. We will endeavour to produce further evidence to the group on all relevant matters they have raised in their interim report and look forward to continue working with them.”
To read the report please click on the attachment below.