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Landowners support engagement and transparency in Land Reform Bill but urge caution on 'detrimental' measures

Scottish Land & Estates said today greater community engagement and increased transparency of ownership are key elements in delivering land reform objectives.

Scottish Land & Estates said the transparency proposals outlined in the Bill align with the openness principle of Scottish Land & Estates' Landowners’Commitment and welcomes measures designed to provide improved access to information on land ownership and control for those affected by land use decisions.

Community engagement measures being brought forward are also consistent with guidance given to landowners from Scottish Land & Estates and the organisation welcomes the fact that new engagement guidance will be aimed not just at landowners but also, occupiers and tenants.

In evidence submitted to the Rural Affairs and Climate Change Committee, which is taking evidence on the Land Reform Bill on the Isle of Skye today, Scottish Land & Estates said that the Scottish Government should hold true to its pledge that ‘good landowners have nothing to fear from land reform’.

Scottish Land & Estates said in its written evidence: “We believe that the Bill includes some far reaching and fundamental changes to land ownership and governance in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government routinely makes the comment that good landowners or landlords have nothing to fear from land reform. However, a number of these measures could  impact detrimentally on owners regardless of how well they manage their land or tenancies.

“Our members make a substantial social, economic and environmental contribution to rural Scotland, and landowners and land-based businesses play an instrumental role in the delivery of key national and local government objectives for the benefit of the entire rural economy and the communities of which they are an integral part.

“We welcome the recognition in the Scottish Government’s policy memorandum of these significant benefits already being delivered by those who own and manage land in Scotland.

“Whilst we support many of the measures proposed, we do believe that there are some which would not deliver the aims of the Bill and also feel that impact of certain measures has not been fully assessed.”

Measures Scottish Land & Estates support include:-

  • Greater engagement between landowners and communities.
  • Proposals regarding legitimate and reasonable access to information to improve transparency and accountability - which is consistent with the Scottish Land & Estates Landowners’Commitment.
  • Proposed changes to access legislation
  • Establishing a Land Commission - which should have at least one commissioner with practical land management experience.

Measures Scottish Land & Estates oppose include:-

  • Provisions relating to the right to buy land to further sustainable development as no evidence has been provided for the need for such powers in addition to those which already exist or have been recently introduced in the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.
  • The reintroduction of non-domestic rates for shootings and deer forests for a myriad of reasons, including the fact that the claim that this is to ensure parity with other businesses is misleading as many sporting rights are not exercised on a commercial basis.

Sarah Jane Laing, Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs, gave evidence to the RACCE committee on Skye today on several elements of the forthcoming bill. Separate evidence sessions will be held on sporting rates and agricultural holdings issues.

She said: “Landowners play a critical role in ensuring sustainable, healthy and empowered rural communities, providing housing, employment and a wide range of other public benefits. We believe much could be achieved by utilising existing structures and stimulating partnership working rather than simply considering land reform as way of transferring ownership of property.

“We do accept that there are improvements which can be made in terms of identifying and communicating goals and visions for rural Scotland, and in engagement between landowners, businesses and communities. We already encourage and support our members community engagement activity and look forward to working with the Scottish Government and others to build on this.”    

 

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