This report provides an analysis to the Call for Evidence by the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG). The Call for Evidence was launched on 4 October 2012 and closed on 11 January 2013. It provided the opportunity for any interested party to make a written submission to the LRRG. There was no prescribed format for submissions. Instead, the Group sought respondents' visions of how and why land reform could be strengthened, the potential barriers, and how these could be addressed.
Overview of the response
The LRRG received a total of 475 responses to the consultation from a wide range of organisations and individuals. Responses were split broadly equally between organisations and individuals. Over two-fifths of responses came from organisations and individuals representing 'estates, farm owners and landowners' interests.
Summary of responses
We have organised the respondents' comments into 12 main themes, each of which is summarised below:
Theme 1 - Land ownership and management
Responses which dealt with this theme centred on the concentration of land ownership in Scotland. Some felt that the current pattern of ownership is inequitable and unjust. It was also felt that there is an imbalance of power between landowners and communities, and that this imbalance should be addressed. Some argued that reform would yield benefits to communities, and cited published evidence to support this view.
Others felt that the status quo is not problematic. Many who held this view argued that there was a lack of an evidence base for the need for further reform or more particularly, diversification of ownership. Some also insisted that the status quo is already beneficial to communities.
Theme 2 - Community land ownership
The central issue regarding community land ownership was whether the Community Right to Buy should be extended. Those arguing in favour felt that extending the Right to Buy had the potential to bring social, economic and environmental benefits to communities. They provided suggestions as to how current barriers could be overcome including:
- funding and other support for community ownership;
- simplifying and introducing more flexibility to existing procedures;
- extending the Community Right to Buy; and
- introducing new legislation.
Those arguing against referred to the contributions that private owners make to their local area, asserting that there is a lack of demand for increased community ownership, and the sustainability of the community ownership model.
Theme 3 - Other models - Models other than ownership which would give communities and individuals a greater stake in land management
Respondents from across the groupings called for better communication and collaboration between communities, local landowners and authorities. However, a minority argued against further community involvement, suggesting that it is unnecessary and may adversely affect business.
Theme 4 - Taxation
The central debate in this theme was over the introduction of a Land Value Tax. Some felt that this tax would be an equitable source of revenue, and that it would tackle the concentration of land ownership. However, others felt that it may result in a loss of investment to the rural economy.
Theme 5 - Succession rights
Some of those who commented on this theme felt that succession rights should be amended because this would be an effective way of changing the pattern of ownership. However, others wanted to avoid any change to ownership patterns, fearing that smaller parcels of land would not be economically viable.
Theme 6 - Tenant farmers and encouraging new entrants
The introduction of the Right to Buy was the central issue within this theme. Those in favour felt that this would address what they felt to be an imbalance of power between landlords and tenants. However, those against worried that the Right to Buy would reduce landlords' confidence in taking on tenants, therefore discouraging new entrants to the industry.
Theme 7 - Crofting
Some argued that the requirements of the Crofting Community Right to Buy were too complex, and should be replaced with a universal right. Others felt that existing crofters' rights should be applied to all communities.
Theme 8 - Access rights
In general, most found the status quo to be acceptable. However, some felt that rights should be extended as landowners do not currently meet their obligations. By contrast, some landowners felt that the current rights are too generous and that corresponding responsibilities are unclear.
Theme 9 - Forestry
The central issue here was the diversification of ownership. Estates and landowners were generally opposed, arguing that a more diverse ownership pattern would not be economically viable. Those in favour thought that diversification would invigorate communities.
Theme 10 - Water resources
Again, the central issue was diversification of ownership. Some felt that coastal communities needed control of water if they were to thrive economically, whereas others felt that this may be unworkable.
Theme 11 - Affordable housing
Many respondents felt that the planning system was the main barrier to providing affordable housing. Some also suggested that the Scottish Government should give more support to the private rented sector. Others stressed the importance of a lack of available land, noting the significance of the concentration of ownership.
Theme 12 - Other relevant themes raised by respondents
Additional comments related to improving broadband in rural areas, concerns surrounding State Aid, renewable energy and the Common Agricultural Policy, along with other issues.
Email: Liz Hawkins