Information

Land reform in a Net Zero Nation: consultation paper

The next Land Reform Bill will make important changes to the framework of law and policy that govern the system of ownership, management and use of land in Scotland. This consultation sets out the Scottish Government's proposals for the Bill and seeks views on a range of land-related issues.


Part 4: Criteria for large-scale landholdings

The proposals outlined in Parts 5 to 7 seek to tackle issues associated with scale and concentration of landownership in Scotland. The proposals seek to balance the interests of the general public and local communities with the interests and rights of individual property owners.

We do not wish to place disproportionate duties on those with small-scale landholdings, or family farms, particularly if this administrative burden would disadvantage them relative to larger landholdings with more staff and capacity. We consider that it would be proportionate for the proposals outlined in Parts 5 to 7 to be applicable only to 'large-scale' landholdings.

There are a number of issues associated with defining 'large–scale' landholdings. It is not as simple as only applying the proposals to landholdings over a certain size. Taking this approach may exclude situations where there is a concentration of landownership, such as a landowner who owns the majority of land on an island. The criteria we propose to use to classify landholdings as 'large-scale' are as follows:

a) A fixed threshold of 3,000 hectares

b) Land that accounts for more than a fixed percentage of a data zone (or adjacent data zones) or local authority ward(s) designated as an Accessible Rural Area or Remote Rural Area, through our six-fold urban/rural classification scheme

c) Land that accounts for more than a specified minimum proportion of a permanently inhabited island

Meeting one or more of these criteria would mean that a landholding would be considered 'large-scale'. In the interest of simplicity, we propose that the same criteria(s) be used to determine whether a landholding is 'large-scale' for the purpose of all the proposals set out in Parts 5 to 7.

We propose that 3,000 hectares would be a proportionate threshold for the first criteria listed above. This threshold has been informed by data held on land and property titles by the Registers of Scotland (RoS). All property titles that have been transferred for a consideration (such as a change in the title due to the property being sold) since 1 April 2003 should be in the Land Register.

As of May 2022, the Land Register contained title information on 48.9% of Scotland's total land mass. The Land Register will be considered to be 'functionally complete' when all land and property that transacts regularly has been registered. Currently, 86.9% of land and property that is expected to transact regularly is included in the register. Social housing and some large land and estates are not included in the calculation of this statistic as they rarely or never sell. Although the Land Register is not yet fully complete, it is the most comprehensive, up to date record we have on land and property ownership in Scotland.

As of May 2022, RoS data indicates that 386 of the 1.86 million titles in the Land Register of Scotland had a total land area of over 3,000 hectares. These titles cover 1.62 million hectares of land, equating to 20.2% of Scotland's total land mass. Note that these figures are not solely based on the ownership of land and include e.g. rights of access and shared ownership. It is therefore possible that the figures are slightly overestimated.

96.8% of the 1.62 million hectares of land that had titles with a land area of over 3,000 hectares in the Land Register was classified as rural, whereas less than 0.05% was classified as urban according to our two-fold urban rural classification scheme. Note that under the two-fold classification scheme accessible small towns and remote small towns are included in the urban classification. The remaining land not classified as either rural or urban fell outside of the two-fold classification scheme boundaries.

Since the Land Register is currently incomplete, and there are some limitations on the data on the titles of large land and estates, we have also considered the impact of using a 3,000 hectares threshold using data held by the Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS). IACS records data on all businesses with agricultural and non-agricultural land in Scotland that receive public subsidies. There are currently 19,292 IACS registered businesses with landholdings that cover 70% of the land in Scotland. Of the 19,292 IACS registered businesses, 255 (1.3%) have landholdings greater than 3,000 hectares, whilst 95% have landholdings below 1,000 hectares.

The data from the Land Register and IACS help to demonstrate that using a threshold of 3,000 hectares as one of the criteria for determining 'large-scale' landholdings would be a proportionate measure. By using this threshold, we would not be placing disproportionate duties on small-scale landholdings or family farms. Instead, the requirement to abide by the proposals outlined in Parts 5 to 7 would lie with landholdings that own a significant proportion of the total land mass in Scotland and already benefit from the land. The additional criteria for classifying large-scale landowners have been proposed to help tackle issues associated with concentrated landownership.

Questions

Q1. Do you agree or disagree with the criteria proposed for classifying landholdings as 'large-scale':

a) A fixed threshold of 3,000 hectares Agree / Disagree / Don't know

b) Land that accounts for more than a fixed percentage of a data zone (or adjacent data zones) or local authority ward(s) designated as an Accessible Rural Area or Remote Rural Area, through our six-fold urban/rural classification scheme Agree / Disagree / Don't know

c) Land that accounts for more than a specified minimum proportion of a permanently inhabited island Agree / Disagree / Don't know

Please give some reasons for your answer and outline any additional criteria:

Q2. Do you agree or disagree that family farms should be exempt from the proposals outlined in Parts 5 to 7 even if they are classified as a 'large-scale' landholding?

Agree / Disagree / Don't know

Please give some reasons for your answer:

Q3. Do you think that the proposals considered in this consultation should be applied to the urban context?

Yes / No / Don't know

Please give some reasons for your answer:

Contact

Email: LRconsultation@gov.scot

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