The land of Scotland and the common good: report

The final report of the Land Reform Review Group.

Section 1 - Land Of Scotland

1 The Land of Scotland is the area covered by the boundaries of Scotland as a sovereign territorial nation. Scotland's territorial area is covered by the jurisdiction of Scots law and is the area encompassed by Scotland's system of land ownership.

2 Scotland's rights of sovereignty over its territory are vested in the Crown with its distinct constitutional and legal identity in Scotland under Scots law, compared to the Crown in the rest of the United Kingdom under English law. This distinct identity was not affected by the Union of Crowns in 1603 and has continued since the Treaty of Union in 1707, when Scotland ceased to be an independent state but continued to be a sovereign territorial nation.

3 This Report is not considering rights of sovereignty. However, the Crown's distinct constitutional identity in Scotland means that the Crown property rights in Scots law, which are an important part of Scotland's system of land ownership, are also distinct from Crown property rights in the rest of the UK and belong to Scotland as a sovereign territorial nation.

4 Scotland's territorial area of approximately 168,500 sq. kms is defined by Scotland's land boundary with England and the boundaries to Scotland's territorial seas, as shown on the Report's cover. The size of this territorial area increased substantially less than 30 years ago, when the boundaries to Scotland's territorial sea area were expanded out to 12 nautical miles from the previous 3 nautical miles boundary. [1] As also shown on the Report cover, Scotland has rights of exploration and exploitation over the Continental Shelf adjoining Scotland's territorial boundaries out to a 200 nautical mile limit. [2]

5 The expansion of Scotland's territorial seas boundaries around the mainland and Scotland's islands means that approximately 88,450 sq. kms or 52% of Scotland's total territorial land area is seabed, compared with the land area of approximately 80,000 sq. kms. [3] If the Scottish sea area out to the 200 nautical mile limit is added, then the ratio of Scottish sea area to Scotland's land area is nearly 6:1. [4]

6 Another important component of Scotland's marine environment is the foreshore. This is the area of shore between the high and low water marks of ordinary spring tides around Scotland's coastlines, and forms the boundary between the seabed and land halves of Scotland's territorial area. The length of Scotland's foreshore is approximately 18,000 kms and relatively long compared to its land area, given the nature of much of the mainland coast and nearly 1,000 islands. [5]

7 The Review Group emphasises the scale of Scotland's territorial seabed and associated territorial marine interests here, because of their importance as part of the land of Scotland. Scotland is also a country where the "vast majority of its population lives within 10 kms of the sea". [6]

8 In this report, the Review Group is considering the system of land tenure that Scotland has over its territorial land area, both seabed and land. Scotland's system of land tenure, like those in other countries, determines "who can use what resources, for how long, and under what conditions". [7] Also in common with most other countries, Scotland's system of land tenure has three main components. The first is Scotland's system of property laws governing how the land is owned. The second is the system of regulatory laws governing how land can be used. The third component is the system of non-statutory public sector measures to influence how land is owned and used in the public interest.

9 Scotland's system of land tenure is governed by the laws of the land supported by other public sector measures, and the purpose of the system is to deliver the optimum outcomes in the public interest through the interactions of the system's three components. Changes to the components of the land tenure system to improve the outcomes in the public interest are land reform, with land reform broadly defined in this report as measures that modify or change the arrangements governing the possession and use of land in Scotland in the public interest.

10 In this Report, the main focus is on the first component in Scotland's system of land tenure, the system of property laws governing the ownership of land. This system of land ownership is the central component, which the other two components seek to influence.


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