Scottish Land & Estates, which represents private landowners across Scotland, said that the Community Empowerment Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament today includes significant changes that could help rural communities become more vibrant.
The landowners’ organisation said powers to help communities realise their aspirations through improvements to community planning are to be welcomed and measures to streamline the purchase of land by communities where there is a willing buyer and willing seller were long overdue.
However, Scottish Land & Estates said that there is still a lot of work to do to provide clarity on the wide definition of some measures contained within the legislation.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “We are fully supportive of the aims to empower communities to realise their aspirations. Our members are already playing a key role in helping this happen.
“We have long argued for the streamlining of the planning process to enable communities to realise these aspirations more quickly. There are numerous instances of landowners wishing to sell land to the community and every effort should be made to ensure that the legal process can be negotiated as efficiently as possible. Delays due to the complexities of the current legislation have caused great frustration to both landowners and communities, and have acted as a disincentive to discussions between parties.
“Measures whereby Ministers can intervene over abandoned and neglected land will take time to mature. Where there are strict definitions, and a proper legal process that allows input from all stakeholders and statutory bodies, there may be a case in exceptional circumstances for some form of intervention.
“We continue to have some concerns, however, that a number of legal definitions are being left to secondary legislation. It was acknowledged in Parliament today that the definition of land to which the abandoned and neglected powers might apply is wide in nature and that it may lead to legal tests to clarify when the powers can be used. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that legislation is as precise as possible.”