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Land use rather than ownership immediate priority for rural communities

A meaningful debate about land use, rather than ownership, should be the key priority for rural communities as Brexit draws closer, Scottish Land & Estates has said.

The organisation, which represents land-based businesses across Scotland, made the comments in response to a call for evidence from the Scottish Land Commission about the impact of concentration of land ownership in Scotland, echoing research published by the Scottish Government less than two years ago entitled ‘The impact of diversity of ownership scale on social, economic and environmental outcomes’.

One of the findings from that report concluded: Land ownership scale is one of a myriad of factors that influence the economic, social and environmental development of rural communities. The complexity of ownership motivations, societal, policy and economic interactions in driving community development means that it is too simplistic to conclude that scale of land ownership is a significant factor in the sustainable development of communities.

The call for evidence was published at the same time as a new discussion paper by Peter Peacock, looking at scale of ownership, was released by the Scottish Land Commission.

Commenting on the publications, David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “It is two years since the recent Land Reform Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament, which was the conclusion to a long debate stretching back to the creation of the Land Reform Review Group in 2012 – and was the second Land Reform Act passed by the parliament in less than 15 years.

“We still await many of the provisions of that new legislation coming into force, with its implementation behind schedule, but already there is attention on rerunning debates that have already taken place.

“We acknowledge that land reform is an ongoing process, and we support independent research that can inform how ownership can influence the best possible use of land. However, we are disappointed when similar research, already published by the Scottish Government as recently as July 2016, appears to have been forgotten. Amongst other findings, that research stated that it was ‘too simplistic to conclude that scale of land ownership is a significant factor in the sustainable development of communities.’

“Landowners have embraced many of the aims of the Scottish Government on land reform, including increasing the transparency of ownership through completion of the Land Register and enhancing engagement with communities. However, there remains an absence of meaningful debate about what should be delivered from Scotland’s land rather than simply who owns it and this is a matter that rural communities and businesses want to see addressed urgently, especially in light of Brexit.”

 

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