Transparency of land ownership supported but complex regulations raise concern

Transparency of land ownership supported but complex regulations raise concern

Press Release

Transparency of land ownership is important to both rural and urban Scotland – but new regulations around transparency and setting up a new Register need to be proportionate and easily understood.

Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) made the comments in their submission to a Scottish Government consultation examining draft regulations on transparency of ownership.

SLE once again reiterated its support for the government’s objective of transparency, but said that the complexity of the regulations were concerning, especially with proposed criminal sanctions for non-compliance.

Sarah-Jane Laing, Executive Director of Scottish Land & Estates said: “Scottish Land & Estates and its members have been very supportive of the desire to see increased transparency of ownership.

We launched our Landowners’ Commitment in 2014 which included a commitment to be open and visible to the communities of which we are part of. Since then, our members have been at the forefront of assisting the Scottish Government achieve its goal of completing the Land Register by 2024.

“Future regulations around transparency need to balance the reforms that the government want to enact with the practical realities of land ownership to avoid significant money being expended on legalities rather than being invested in businesses which are the bedrock of Scotland’s rural economy.”

Scottish Land & Estates added that it wished to see improvements to the current draft regulations to make the system more workable and avoid the potential of sanctions being applied through accidental non-compliance.

The proposed new Register will have a significant impact on individuals and bodies in the rural sector where many farming partnerships, estates and trusts hold title to land in a manner which will require additional information to be provided to the new Register.

Ms Laing added: “It is important that landowners of all sizes – especially on small farms and estates – can comply easily with what is being proposed. We have made various suggestions within our consultation response as to how the draft regulations could be significantly improved. 

It is acknowledged that it is a complex area of policy to get right but owners and occupants of land, such as farm tenants, need to know clearly what is expected of them.

“With criminal rather than civil penalties in place for non-compliance, the government needs to undertake a significant communications exercise to explain what businesses and individuals have to do once the legislation comes in effect. We hope by that stage that many of the potential obstacles within the regulations will have been addressed.”