Land reform in a Net Zero nation: consultation analysis

Outlines the findings from an analysis of responses to a public consultation on land reform in a Net Zero nation.

1. Introduction


This report presents analysis of responses to a public consultation on Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation.

As a result of the Land Reform Acts of 2003 and 2016 and the passage of the Community Empowerment Act of 2015, Scotland has taken significant steps in supporting and enabling communities to have greater opportunity to own or to influence the use of the land on which they live. During this Parliament, the Land Reform Bill will continue a legislative journey of land reform and community ownership.

The Land Reform Bill will seek to address long-standing concerns about concentrated patterns of land ownership in rural areas of Scotland and to ensure that land is owned, managed, and used in ways that rise to the challenges of net zero, nature restoration, and a just transition. To bring about a just transition we need to have a framework of law and policy that ensures communities can make the most of these opportunities. This means that not only must we address questions of who owns land, who uses it, and how it is managed, we must also consider the issue of who is benefitting from land, and from investment in it.

The consultation

The consultation contained several proposals for inclusion in the Land Reform Bill and also invited respondents to give their views on other ideas and proposals, which may or may not be included in the Bill. The consultation documents are available on the Scottish Government’s consultation hub.

The first three proposals are aimed at tackling the issues associated with scale and concentration of land ownership in Scotland. The intention is that these proposals would apply only to large-scale landholdings and not in general to smaller landholdings and family farms. Views were sought on the criteria for defining ‘large-scale’ landholdings, along with proposals that this definition could relate to:

  • Strengthening the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement
  • Compulsory Land Management Plans
  • Measures to regulate the market in large-scale landholdings.

The consultation also asked respondents for views on other proposed measures relating to:

  • New conditions on those in receipt of public funding for land-based activity
  • A new land use tenancy for tenant farmers
  • A future consultation on small landholdings
  • Transparency about who owns, controls and benefits from Scotland’s land
  • A range of land related reforms.

The consultation opened on 4 July 2022 and closed on 30 October 2022. It asked a total of 51 questions within nine core sections.

Profile of responses

In total 537 standard responses were received, of which 162 were from groups or organisations and 375 from individual members of the public. Where consent has been given to publish the response, it may be found on the on the Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation published responses page of the Scottish Government website.

Respondents were asked to identify whether they were responding as an individual or on behalf of a group or organisation. Group respondents were allocated to one of seven groups by the analysis team.

A breakdown of the number of responses received by respondent type is set out below, and a full list of group respondents appended to this report as Annex 1.

Table 1 – Respondents by type
Type of respondent Number
Academic group or think tank 4
Community or local organisations and their representative bodies 22
Government and NDPB 19
Landowner 34
Private sector organisations 17
Representative bodies, institutions, associations or unions 30
Third sector or campaign group 36
Organisations 162
Individuals 375
All respondents 537

Six consultation events were also held (five in person and one online event). The feedback from these events, which includes comments and questions from those attending, has also been included in the analysis.

Analysis and reporting

The report presents a question-by-question analysis of answers to the closed questions and further comments at open questions. Both the proportion of respondents answering closed questions and the number commenting at open questions varied considerably from question to question. To reflect this differing level of response, tables are presented with different baselines, so the total shown in each case is the total number who answered that question.

A comment rate is also given at each open question. The number of respondents varied considerably, from 430 respondents at Question 9 to around 80 respondents at Question 51. In terms of the balance of those comments, those who disagreed with a proposal were slightly more likely to comment than other respondents. For example, at Question 2, 62% disagreed at the closed question and 67% of the comments were made by those who disagreed. At many questions, respondents who disagreed and went on to make a further comment also tended to make more extensive comments and/or raise more issues.

As with any public consultation exercise, it should be noted that those responding generally have a particular interest in the subject area. Therefore, the views they express cannot necessarily be seen as representative of wider public opinion.



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