Small landholdings in Scotland: legislation review

Review of the legislation governing small landholdings in Scotland and supporting consultation analysis.

Creation of New Small Landholdings

Issues Raised

145. Amongst those we consulted, it was unclear if there was demand for new small landholdings and uncertainty about which legal provisions are still in force.


146. As described above, when it was enacted the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act 1911 allowed prospective landholders and landlords to create and register new landholdings. The Act also included powers to encourage the creation of new landholdings, and following amendments made by the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act 1919 the then Board of Agriculture for Scotland had the ability to make schemes for the creation of new holdings. [110] Under a scheme, a parcel of land became a small landholding, with the landlord generally entitled to compensation. It was essentially a form of compulsory leasing. The process for the making of a scheme is laid out in the 1911 Act, as amended. During and following WWI, the then Board of Agriculture for Scotland was also given further, time-limited, powers to compulsorily purchase land for the purpose of providing land for new small landholdings. [111]

147. The functions of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland were eventually transferred to the Secretary of State and then devolved to Scottish Ministers. [112]


148. Supporting the creation of new small landholdings has the potential to build on the Scottish Government's land reform programme. From a land tenure perspective there may be benefit in the Scottish Government continuing to explore the extent of the available powers, and for Scottish Ministers to consider further whether these could or should be exercised to facilitate the constitution of new small landholdings, including their use as a letting vehicle. The extent to which powers in this area continue to exist requires further consideration. Further consideration is also required as to whether the framework for the exercise of Scottish Ministers' powers would allow for the use of any remaining powers in this area. Any further consideration needs to take into account whether there is a value to the rural economy and to Scotland as a whole in creating new small landholdings. The following matters are important considerations to take into account and explore further:

  • Examination of socio-economic benefits of small landholdings to rural Scotland.
  • Comparison of small landholdings to other types of agricultural tenancies.
  • Identification of the potential opportunities to develop small landholdings with public and private landlords.
  • Consideration of the cost of implementing new schemes.
  • Impact of creation of new holding on land values.
  • Ensuring retention of the small landholding for agricultural use or diversification under the terms of the Acts.
  • Scheme may create a demand for second or country homes.


Email: Claudine Duff

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