Compulsory purchase orders: introduction

An introduction to Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) in Scotland.

About Compulsory Purchase Orders

Many public sector organisations (e.g. local authorities, Transport Scotland) and a range of infrastructure providers (e.g. energy transmission companies) have powers to purchase land without the owner's agreement if there is considered to be a strong enough case in the public interest in doing so.

For example, a local council may need to build a new road, assemble land to enable regeneration or build a new school, but cannot reach agreement to purchase the land needed. In these cases they may promote a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) and ask Ministers to confirm it. If confirmed by Ministers they may then take ownership of the land and pay compensation to the landowner and others with an interest in the land.

CPOs are therefore a useful tool to enable local authorities and other public sector bodies and infrastructure providers to acquire land to enable projects which are in the public interest to proceed, when they would otherwise not. However, the use of a CPO to take away someone's property rights is a significant step that must be carefully considered and the benefits of the underlying project balanced against the rights of landowners and others with an interest in the land.

When a CPO is used it should be done efficiently and fairly and uncertainty for landowners and those affected should be minimised wherever possible.

We aim to create a clear, accessible, effective and efficient system of legislation and policy which allows for the compulsory acquisition and purchase of land and property for the public benefit. The provisions relating to any compensation should be fair and transparent and allow for timeous settlement.

We have published a range of information and guidance about the CPO process for local authorities and landowners.

Compulsory Purchase Orders considered by Ministers

All CPO's have to be approved by a Minister, we have published a set of core principles and guidance for Scottish Government officials deadling with orders that have been submitted for consideration; 

Advice to Acquiring Authorities on the use of compulsory purchase

New guidance notes for Acquiring Authorities considering using CPO were published on 26 April 2018. These aim to guide authorities through the CPO process from start to finish.

In addition we have published process maps and a checklist for authorities preparing a CPO.

Circular 6/2011 - Scottish Government policy on making Compulsory Purchase Orders: guidance for acquiring authorities provides more detailed advice on the procedures that Acquiring Authorities must follow when preparing and submitting a CPO. 

We have also prepared additional technical guidance relating to some of the sub-processes associated with compulsory purchase:

Land and Building Transaction Tax associated with Compulsory Purchase Orders is payable in some compulsory purhcase transactions. Advice on the application of LBTT to CPO is available. 

Certificates of Appropriate Alternative Development (CAAD) are a tool used by any party involved in a compulsory purchase scheme to help assess the market value of land or property to be acquired, to ensure fair compensation to be paid.  The CAAD guidance provides information on how this be used

Surplus land

In certain circumstances, land which was purchased compulsorily and which is later deemed to be surplus should be offered for sale back to the previous owner or owners. More information is available in Circular 5/2011 - Disposal of Surplus Government Land - The Crichel Down Rules.

Examples of CPO usage

We have published a number of case studies of how compulsory purchase has been used to deliver a range of projects for the public benefit.

Reform of compulsory purchase

Ministers have committed to supporting interim measures to modernise CPOs in advance of legislation. We are reviewing the current framework for dealing with these. This will build on the Scottish Law Commission's review of compulsory purchase and land compensation law conducted in 2014 to 2016.

CPO training events

You can view the presentations, agenda and key learning points from the CPO Assembly that took place on 12 December 2017 on our blog. In March and April 2019 we delivered 3 CPO introductory training seminars. You can view the presentations and agenda from these session on our Blog. Future training opportunities will also be advertised on our Blog. 


We have created a list of CPO Lead Officers for each policy area. In addition if you have any general queries about our policy or the CPO process you can contact: 



Telephone: 0131 244 9507 


Area 2-F (South)
Planning and Architecture Division
The Scottish Government
Victoria Quay

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