Small landholdings in Scotland: legislation review

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



1. This document is a review of the legislation regulating small landholders, setting out the current position concerning small landholding tenancies in Scotland. Small landholders, of which there are approximately 74 remaining in Scotland, are tenanted holdings under the Small Landholdings Acts 1886-1931. Small landholdings are a sub-set of smallholdings. [1]


2. During Stage 3 of the Land Reform Bill, Scottish Ministers committed to a review of the legislation governing small landholdings. Section 124 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 requires Scottish Ministers to review the legislation and to lay a report of that review before the Scottish Parliament by 31 March 2017. In carrying out this review, Scottish Ministers have consulted with small landholders and other persons as appropriate.

Previous consideration

3. The former Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead MSP, established and chaired the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group ( AHLRG) in 2013. In its Interim Report, the AHLRG commented on small landholdings [2] and concluded in their Final Report in 2015 that:

  • "further consideration should be given to providing small landholders with an automatic pre-emptive right to buy their holdings, should they come up for sale." [3]
  • "Small Landholders in the designated [crofting] areas should still retain their right to convert to become a croft under relevant legislation." [4]

4. The Land Reform Review Group ( LRRG) also considered small landholdings as a part of their 2014 review into the Land of Scotland and the Common Good. They recommended that:

  • "…there should be major improvements in the position of tenants under the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act 1911….these tenants should, like crofters, have a statutory right to buy their holdings". [5]

Remit & scope

5. The terms of reference of the review are specified in section 124 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. The remit is to review the legislation that governs small landholdings. Small landholdings are defined as a landholding where the tenancy is one to which section 32 of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act 1911 applies, or to which any of the provisions of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Acts 1886 to 1931 applies. Specifically, this review addresses some of the key legislative provisions in: the Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886; the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act 1911; the Land Settlement (Scotland) Act 1919; and the Small Landholders and Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1931. Consideration is also given to other relevant legislation concerning small landholdings.

6. This review focuses on the legislation as it applies to "landholdings", which by far forms the largest sub-category within small landhold tenure. "Statutory Small Tenancies" ( SSTs), a
sub-category of small landholdings of which there are fewer, are considered where relevant. The differences between these two categories are discussed further in para 13-25 and are summarised in Annex 5 of this review.

Review Process

7. Given their small numbers, government officials endeavoured to make personal contact with all known small landholders. A short consultation was directed at the estimated 74 current small landholders and via stakeholders to landlords. This involved a written mailshot where a number of open questions were asked, followed up on with telephone calls.

8. Alongside this, the Scottish Government attended various events to meet relevant stakeholders. Some of these were Scottish Government-led events which afforded individual small landholders and landlords the opportunity to meet officials at a small number of separate surgeries in the areas where the highest density of small landholdings in Scotland are located. Government officials also attended a number of industry events including the Smallholder & Growers Festival in Lanark, the Rural Parliament in Brechin and AgriScot in Edinburgh.


Email: Claudine Duff

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