4. Awareness and initial reactions to the Scottish Government's land reform agenda
Main findings and implications
There were mixed levels of prior awareness of the term 'land reform' and what it might involve – but a general sense that it was a positive development.
When asked more specifically about awareness of the Scottish Government's plans for land reform, awareness was low: 73% of survey respondents said they knew 'not very much' or 'nothing at all'.
When presented with an overview of the Scottish Government's aims for land reform and the main elements of the 2003 and 2016 Land Reform (Scotland) Acts, participants were, overall, very supportive of the aims. More exceptionally, there were negative reactions or concerns. These tended to relate to how well CRtB would work in practice.
The dominant view was that 'land reform' was not a particularly good term. It was seen as vague and unclear – 'it doesn't mean much to ordinary people' – and made people think only of rural, undeveloped land. However, there was no consensus on a better term.
Awareness of the term 'land reform'
In the deliberative research, after exploring initial associations with land, participants were asked if they were aware of the term 'land reform'. Responses ranged from those who indicated they were well aware of it, to those who were aware of specific aspects (most commonly the community right to buy), to those who had not heard the term or had heard it but did not know anything about it.
Some made historical associations – there were references to the Clearances, the enclosure movement and the history of the USSR – which they had learned about at school or university. Awareness of more recent developments came from the news, work or political involvement.
Despite the mixed levels of awareness of what 'land reform' might involve, there was a general sense that it was a positive development.
Awareness of the Scottish Government's land reform agenda
When asked more specifically about awareness of the Scottish Government's plans for land reform, awareness was low. The survey found that most (73%) knew 'not very much' or 'nothing at all' about the Scottish Government's land reform agenda. Just 4% said they knew 'a lot' and a further 20% 'a little'. Those living in rural areas were more likely to say they knew at least a little (34% in rural areas compared to 22% in urban areas).
|Not very much||37|
|Nothing at all||36|
Base: All (n=1501)
Although participants in the deliberative workshops and interviews often showed an awareness of land reform and gave examples of rural community buyouts or mentioned the 'right to roam', they did not necessarily connect these to the Scottish Government. When asked directly what they knew about the Scottish Government's land reform plans, they tended to say they did not know anything.
Reactions to introductory information on the Scottish Government's land reform agenda
Participants in the deliberative research were given an overview of the Scottish Government's aims for land reform and the main elements of the 2003 and 2016 Land Reform Acts.
Some surprise was expressed about how recent the legislation was. Another aspect which struck people was the CRtB for urban communities – many of those who were aware of the CRtB for rural and crofting communities had not known this had been extended.
Overall, participants were generally very supportive of the aims of land reform and some felt the policies did not go far enough. Others indicated that, while they supported the aims in principle, support for specifics would depend on the detail.
"I think it is very sensible. I support it 100%."
Younger urban interview participant
"It doesn't go far enough. No taxation, no directory of who owns what and how it changes hands. Sounds like a reasonable start but doesn't go far enough."
Mixed group participant
"It's very noble and hard to disagree with. And very high level. The problem is when it does something people disagree with."
Mixed group participant
Support for the land reform agenda was often explained with reference to its potential to achieve wider social aims such as equality and fairness, and rarely with reference to specific examples of how policies might benefit participants personally. This non-specific or intangible aspect of land reform was reflected in wider discussions relating to a lack of detail, perceptions of limited impact or vagueness in terminology.
More exceptionally, however, there were negative initial reactions (mainly in relation to CRtB). These included scepticism about how well CRtB would work in practice, including whether it would always further the cause of social justice, concerns about how well it would work generations down the line, and whether it was the best use of public funds.
Views on the term 'Land Reform'
One participant spontaneously raised the issue of terminology:
"Some of these terms, like 'community buy- out' and 'land reform', I find quite daunting and I'm quite educated."
Younger Rural group participant
After they had been given an overview of what land reform involved and had discussed it, participants in the deliberative research were asked whether they thought 'land reform' was a good description.
One view was that that the term was fine – it was short, descriptive and 'does what it says on the tin'. The dominant view, however, was that it was not a particularly good term. It was felt to be vague and unclear ('it doesn't mean much to ordinary people'), boring or old-fashioned. A common criticism was that it made people think only of rural, undeveloped land. Another association was with physically reshaping land.
"It sounds dull and if it's just about the law […] and not something that people would think was relevant to them."
Mixed group participant
Alternative suggestions included 'people and places' (some felt it important to include 'people' or 'communities' in the description), 'land balance and equity' and 'land use reform'. However, there was no consensus on a better term.