Compulsory Purchase Reform Practitioner Advisory Group minutes: March 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 27 March 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Roseanna Cunningham, Co-Chair
  • Fiona Simpson, Chief Planner Scottish Government, Co-Chair
  • Tom Winter, Head of Compulsory Purchase and Infrastructure Levy, Scottish Government
  • Alan Cameron, Planning Policy Manager, Scottish Government
  • Anastasia Pseiraki, Planning Policy Officer, Scottish Government
  • Elaine Farquharson-Black, Brodies
  • Dougie Bowers, Valuation Office Agency
  • Rob McIntosh, Aberdeenshire Council
  • Keith Petrie, FG Burnett
  • Iulia Toch, Glasgow City Council
  • Gillian Baillie, Gillian Baillie Planning
  • Michael Duguid, Transport Scotland


  • Helen Wood, Assistant Chief Planner, Scottish Government

Items and actions


Tom Winter presentation

TW presentation part 1 – Why is reform needed? What might it achieve?

TW outlined background to and reasons for Scottish Government (SG) commitment to reforming compulsory purchase (CP). He highlighted the role that Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) can play in delivering projects, large and small, that would not otherwise come forward, and by extension, their potential to support wider SG plans, policies and strategies. Pointed out that  the age and complexity of the legislation – as underlined by previous Scottish Law Commission review – prevents compulsory purchase fulfilling this strategic potential.

TW set out some draft objectives for the work and explained why these can help to frame and guide the reform programme, keep it connected to the big picture and distinguish it from other SG workstreams (see related SG workstreams).

Part 1 discussion

Members agreed that although CP is a valuable tool, there is currently a resistance to using the legislation due to its complexity and the long timescales involved. There was a shared view that it is not widely understood by the public (including why it is not used more readily) and that there is a need to demystify CP and make it clearer/more accessible.

Members were generally comfortable with the proposed objectives/parameters and in broad agreement with them as a central “mission statement”. There were some detailed comments and suggestions as to the potential order/emphasis of the draft objectives. TW offered to share the presentation so members could consider further and send any further comments.

Dougie Bowers commented that it should be possible to speed up the process in a way that also supports fairness. Elaine Farquharson-Black, Rob McIntosh, and Gillian Baillie commented on the importance of fairness and the objective of making system more equitable/fairer for all; it was noted that a reformed system needs to be fair for acquiring authorities and for those whose land is taken.

Michael Duguid, Rob McIntosh and Keith Petrie mentioned need for digitisation and for a more effective way of issuing information to parties, whilst recognising that not everyone may have access to digital services. KP noted his involvement with the Compulsory Purchase Association’s work on digitising compulsory purchase; papers have been shared with SG previously. TW noted that the “effectiveness” objective is intended to capture the need to make CP more digital even if this not explicit.

TW stressed that the objectives are deliberately high level: they’re intended to give a sense of what the programme is trying to achieve rather than covering every aspect of what will be delivered through the reform process. Emphasised that there is a balance to strike and we’re open to comments.

TW presentation part 2  - How will reform be taken forward? When might change happen?

TW outlined how SG proposes to take the reform programme forward. Intention is to structure the policy development phase of the work around a series of themes/topics that act as building blocks, which provide basis for exploring and unpacking issues in detail, engaging with stakeholders and moving towards a robust set of consultation proposals.

Proposed building blocks follow the general chronology of compulsory purchase: enabling powers; confirmation procedures; taking possession/title and compensation. TW sought to illustrate through series of diagrams how these can guide the iterative policy development process.

Finally, TW presented broad milestones and timescales for the programme, emphasising that any CPO Bill would be in the next Parliament. Intention is to publish public consultation setting out reform proposals in autumn 2025.

Part 2 discussion

Members broadly comfortable with proposed building blocks and overall timescales. Iulia Toch asked whether early engagement merited being a topic/block in its own right given the important bearing this has on the subsequent phases of a CPO. TW indicated that this envisaged as being picked up through the “confirmation procedures” block but SG open to the suggestion and will consider.

Although it was acknowledged that the proposed themes/topics will help break the programme down into more manageable chunks, it will be important not to lose sight of the fact that in practice there is considerable overlap between them. This fed into a broader discussion about how compensation discussions at the start of a project have crucial bearing on timescales and outcomes during the whole process. Early engagement was noted to be important. Members of the group emphasised that uncertainty around compensation is often at the root of most property owners’ objections at the start of the process.

A range of other points about current compensation arrangements were made, including: that equivalence is not the reality on the ground and that claimants often left out of pocket, the sometimes lengthy period between land being taken and compensation being paid, home loss payments not having been updated in line with inflation since 1991, the hardship that can be caused by uncertainty and associated impacts on mental health. In this context, KP underlined the importance of those engaging with claimants having necessary soft skills to handle matters sensitively. E-FB suggested perhaps Local Development Plans (LDPs) could support use of CP powers.

Related SG workstreams

In advance of the meeting, members were provided with a briefing paper on wider workstreams that SG is currently progressing (e.g. land reform bill, review of community right to buy (CRTB) and community wealth building).

Roseanna Cunningham underlined that certain stakeholders – and members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) – will have a particular view of what compulsory purchase reform means, what it can achieve and what it should prioritise. It was suggested that some view CPO reform as part of the wider land reform agenda. In this context, RC emphasised the importance of the group being aware of this wider interest and engaging with stakeholders accordingly.

RC suggested perhaps representative from bodies such as the Scottish Land Commission or Community Land Scotland could be invited to a future session to discuss their objectives/priorities.

Members recognised this issue, were keen to engage and agreed that interest groups could be invited to future sessions to discuss specific topics or themes.

TW noted that SG has already approached a range of organisations to make clear our commitment to engaging with the range of stakeholders that have an interest in compulsory purchase.

RC noted that in general there is an expectation that CPOs should be used in a way that benefits communities, and that there can be confusion about why it is not easier and quicker to use compulsory purchase to, for example, deal with derelict properties.


Various practicalities were discussed including: the duration of the group, the frequency/length of meetings and their format/location.

Fiona Simpson noted SG expectation that the group would run until at least the publication of the consultation (anticipated autumn 2025) but could well have valuable role to play beyond then.

There was general agreement that at least some meetings should be in-person. Also agreement that meeting every two months was about right but that the frequency and length could be increased as the work moves forward.

Next steps

Immediate actions for SG were to:

  • share TW presentation and invite any further comments on the draft strategic objectives for reform programme and proposed framework for taking it forward
  • make arrangements for second meeting of the group in late May/early June

TW suggested that before the next meeting SG would consider wider engagement in more detail, including potential opportunities to invite other organisations to future Practitioner Advisory Group (PAG) meetings. It was also suggested that a paper would be prepared looking at reforms introduced in England and Wales since 2004 and considering extent to which these could support SG objectives.

RC asked about what lessons could be learned from High Speed Rail 2 (HS2); TW indicated that there are plenty of practitioners with direct HS2 experience and insights into what SG could learn from the project.

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