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Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016



The Land Reform (Scotland) Act was given Royal Assent on 22 April 2016.

The full text of the Act is available here.

  • Part 1 - requires the Scottish Government to publish a statement on land rights and responsibilities and review this every 5 years. The statement will contain a set of principles to guide the development of public policy on the nature and character of land rights in Scotland, to ensure that the full public benefits from land in Scotland are realised. 

  • Part 2 – establishes the Scottish Land Commission that will support appointed Land Commissioners and a Tenant Farming Commissioner, the latter being one of the key recommendations of the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group. It is a clear demonstration of our commitment to end the “stop/start” nature of land reform to date.

  • Part 3 – the Scottish Government amended the Bill at stage 3 to provide that regulations can set out the provisions for a public register of persons that have a controlling interest in. These measures will greatly improve transparency of landownership in Scotland by ensuring that information about persons with a controlling interest is publically available.

  • Part 4  requires that Scottish Ministers issue guidance about engaging with communities on decisions relating to land. Guidance will be produced in consultation with all relevant persons and in preparing the guidance have regard to promoting respect for and observance of relevant human rights, encouraging equal opportunities, furthering the reduction of inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage, and the achievement of sustainable development in relation to land.

  • Part 5 provides for a right to buy land to further sustainable development. When commenced, it will put Scottish communities at the heart of land reform by enabling them to buy land where this is necessary to further sustainable development, and where certain conditions are met.

  • Part 6 – provides for the entry on the valuation role of shooting and deerstalking businesses. This provision is about fairness, treating shooting and deerstalking in the same way as other non-domestic ratepayers. Additional revenue raised will also help support the Scottish Land Fund – a key part of our efforts to empower communities and ensure greater diversity of landownership in Scotland.

  • Part 7 -  gives local authorities the power to change the use of inalienable common good land (i.e. land that forms part of the common good and with respect to which a question arises as to the right of the authority to alienate) by applying to such proposed changes of use the same legal process as currently applies to disposals of such common good land, by getting court consent.

    It removes the need for councils to secure passage by the Scottish Parliament of a Private Bill to authorise changes of use of such land, saving time and costs as well as providing greater flexibility on the use of common good land.

  • Part 8 –  provides Scottish Natural Heritage with additional powers to intervene where the management of deer by landowners and occupiers is not delivering in the public interest.

  • Part 9 – provides for small amendments and procedural clarifications to Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.  Part 1 of the 2003 Act has delivered a progressive statutory framework for improved public access over land in Scotland.

  • Part 10 –  reforms agricultural holdings legislation to improve relationships, re-dress imbalances, and provide the tools to help the industry begin to move forward.

  1. Tenant’s Right to Buy – removes the requirement for a tenant to register their interest in purchasing their holding with Registers of Scotland. This right will now become automatic  when a landlord decides to sell their land.
  2. Relinquishing and assignation of 1991 tenancies – this enables a 1991 Act tenant to assign their tenancy on the open market to a new entrant or a progressing farmer, with the landlord having the pre-emptive right to buy.
  3. Rent Review – provides a new rent review system  to simplify and improve the process -  by moving away from a predominantly based  ‘open market’ calculation to one based on a ‘fair rent’, taking into account the agricultural productivity of the holding and consideration of the fixed equipment provided by the landlord, any surplus residential accommodation, and diversified activity on the holding.
  4. Enforced Sale –  will enable a tenant of a secure 1991 Act agricultural tenancy to apply to the Scottish Land Court  to seek an order for sale of the land where their landlord  fails to meet their legal obligations under the tenancy and  this is affecting the tenant’s ability to farm in accordance with the rules for good husbandry.
  5. Succession and Assignation – widens the class of people  that a tenant farmer can assign their tenancy  to and also  who they can leave their tenancy to upon death.  This also simplifies the ways in which a landlord can object to a potential assignee or successor of a tenancy.
  6. Modern Limited Duration Tenancies (MLDT)  - Creates  a new tenancy type (MLDT), of 10 years duration, which  allows greater flexibility to both parties to negotiate certain terms of the lease. Also provides a break clause in after 5 years for new entrants to farming.
  7. Repairing Tenancies – creates a new tenancy type for a duration of at least 35 years. This tenancy makes provision for a ‘repairing period’ of at least 5 years, during which the landlord’s fixed equipment obligations are reduced and the tenant is exempt from farming the land in accordance with the rules of good husbandry, until the repairing period expires.
  8. Amnesty for Tenant’s Improvements – creates an amnesty period for 1991 Act tenancies, allowing a tenant farmer who has not previously served a notice or has no written consent to serve formal notice on their landlord of their intention that specific items, not currently agreed as tenants improvements, are to be considered tenants improvements for the purposes of establishing the tenant’s right to compensation when the tenancy ends (waygo).  This is subject to the landlord’s ability to object on the grounds that the improvement was not necessary for the agricultural productivity of the holding or the landlord proving they carried out or contributed to the improvement.
  9. Improvements by Landlord – provides a right for tenant farmers to object to a proposed landlord’s improvement  if the tenant considers the improvement is unnecessary for the agricultural production on the holding.