Overview of Evidence on Land Reform in Scotland

The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the evidence available on the implementation and progress of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to date, and to highlight some of the key issues that may be worth considering in its forthcoming review.

1. Background

1.1 The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 encompasses policy actions including: access; community right to buy in non-crofting areas; and community right to buy in crofting areas (the Crofting Community Right to Buy - CCRtB) with other crofting measures. The Act came in as part of a raft of measures introduced within the wider Land Reform Programme, which included the Scottish Land Fund (superseded by the Growing Community Assets fund - GCA).

1.2 When the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament in 2001, community ownership was still comparatively rare, though there had been several developments in the past 5 years. Despite its newness, the then Scottish Office recognised that community ownership of land and community involvement in the future of a community were important issues. This has been borne out in developments since that time. There has been increasing policy interest in the ownership and management of land and other assets by community-based organisations, and an increasing number of communities have registered an interest in ownership.

1.3 This interest has grown significantly, especially in the last few years, due in part to the localism agenda. The Scottish Government's Community Empowerment Action Plan, for example, highlights the key role of land and asset ownership in strengthening the power and influence of communities. There has also been a wider movement across the UK, through reviews such as the Quirk Review, and its resultant publication 'Making Assets Work: The Quirk Review of community management and ownership of public assets' (2007), one of the most important policy documents for asset development and transfer in England.

1.4 Until recently, there has been relatively little independent research on the community ownership of land and assets, particularly in terms of its key risks and benefits, and the factors that help determine whether ownership becomes a success or a liability in the broader context of community empowerment. However, the body of evidence is growing and now encompasses reviews on the progress of land reform in general, reports and evaluations covering the impacts of specific parts of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 in particular, and studies examining the link between land reform and community resilience / sustainability. However, there is more evidence on the experiences of community bodies than there is on landowners who also have an important role to play.

1.5 The purpose of this paper is to summarise such evidence, and use it to inform the forthcoming review of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, by highlighting some of the key issues that this may wish to consider and to inform the future direction of land reform in Scotland.

1.6 The evidence reviewed in this paper largely takes the form of evaluations (Big Lottery Fund, 2010; SQW, 2007; SQW, 2009; SQW, 2011); think pieces (JRF, 2010; JRF, 2011; Holmes, 2010; Wightman, 2011); evidence reviews (MacLeod, 2010; Slee et al, 2008); case studies (Aiken et al, 2011; Skerratt, 2011); surveys and interviews (Aiken et al, 2011; MacLeod. 2010; TNS Research International, 2010). As such, the evidence base is wide-ranging but not necessarily comprehensive in terms of its geographical or topical coverage. Moreover, there is the possibility that certain sources may not be entirely objective in terms of their analytical perspective, given that they are written and/or published by those administering particular initiatives. Evidence was also compiled from the Register of Community Interests in Land (RCIL) at http://rcil.ros.gov.uk/RCIL/default.asp?category=rcil&service=home which includes all the applications received by Scottish Ministers together with information on the status of the applications.


Email: Angela Morgan

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