Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement 2022: advisory notes

Advisory notes to accompany Revised 2022 Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, September 2022.

Principle 6:

There should be transparency about the ownership, use and management of land, and this information should be publicly available, clear and contain relevant detail.

Decisions about land can have significant impacts on many aspects of our lives, including on communities, local businesses, employment opportunities, and availability of housing and public services. Information about land and buildings provides the foundation for open and transparent decision-making by public and private sector organisations, communities, and individuals. Participation in these decisions, by individuals, communities and landowners, is a key component of taking a human rights approach to developing policy, and transparency of information can enable greater participation in decision-making about land and buildings.

Sharing information about land, in both urban and rural environments, can contribute to more informed decision-making, more efficient land use and management, and create benefits for the local economy, environment and society. For example, individuals or communities may wish to engage with landowners on a range of issues including access or development plans and may have useful information about the land that has implications for decision-making. Many landowners and decision-makers are open and actively engaged with their communities, but this is not universal. In some cases, it can be difficult to identify who an owner is or who makes decisions about land, which can hinder engagement, exploration of opportunities and resolution of issues.

To help people find information about land and who has significant influence or control in the decisions made about it, the Scottish Government created the Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land which was launched in April 2022. The register will show those who influence or make decisions about land, along with their contact details. This increased transparency will enable communities to contact the people who makes decisions about land and property in their local area. The register complements existing registers and information, including the Land Register of Scotland, the valuation roll, the Crofting Register, and Companies House records.

Being able to access information about how land is used and managed, how decisions are made, and any plans for future use and management can empower people, giving them the opportunity to understand more about the land around them and how it can and does meet their needs. Land management plans are a helpful way to set out information about objectives and priorities for land. They can be beneficial for landowners and managers, as well as for communities and individuals, by providing a basis for communications and acting as a guide for future decision making.

This principle aims to ensure that reasonable and helpful information about land and land management is made available in a clear, timely and accessible fashion. Information should be helpful and relevant for local people and communities, supporting them to tackle issues, identify opportunities and get involved in decision-making processes.

What we are doing

  • The Scottish Government's Open Data Strategy states our aim to make non-personal and non-commercially sensitive data available, via the internet, in a format which allows it to be easily used.
  • ScotLIS, the land and information system for Scotland was launched, by Register of Scotland, to business customers in October 2017. It provides easy and intuitive access to the information of the two operating property registers in Scotland, with a particular emphasis on improving map based access to underlying ownership information. In May 2019 a refreshed ScotLIS enabled members of the public to instantly access and where appropriate purchase information from the Land Register. In June 2022 additional capability was launched for business customers to instantly access previously recorded deeds, increasing speed of delivery and contributing to improvements within the conveyancing process.
  • In May 2014, Scottish Ministers announced the target of registering the ownership of all of Scotland's land by 2024. Registers of Scotland are undertaking this work, and as of September 2022 50% of Scotland's land mass is now on the Land Register of Scotland, equating to approximately 70% of addresses in Scotland.
  • The Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land was launched on 1 April 2022, which improves transparency in decision making about land by making information about persons who have a controlling interest in land publically available – those who ultimately make decisions about the management or use of land, even if they are not necessarily registered as the owner of the land. This Register, kept by Registers of Scotland, implements Part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016, with a transition period until 1 April 2023 at which time criminal penalties will come into force for non-compliance or providing false information.
  • Other publicly held data is made accessible by mapping tools such the National Biodiversity Network's Atlas Scotland, and those managed by Marine Scotland and Scotland's Environment Web.
  • The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 requires all relevant authorities in Scotland to publish a register of the land and buildings they own or lease. For example Forestry and Land Scotland maintains an interactive map-based Register of Land, showing the national forests and land, covering approximately 470,000 hectares, which are owned by Scottish Ministers on behalf of the people of Scotland and managed by Forestry and Land Scotland.
  • Part 8 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 contained provisions requiring each local authority to establish a register of Common Good property and to consult communities before disposing of any Common Good property or changing its use. In fulfilling those duties councils are required to have regard to the statutory guidance for local authorities published by the Scottish Government in July 2018.

Case Study - Alvie and Dalraddy Estates

The Land Register seeks to catalogue the ownership of all of Scotland's land by 2024. At present, when any land is sold it must be entered onto the register by the new owner. However, this does mean that much of the land is not registered due to it not having changed ownership during the lifetime of the register.

There are, however, land owners who see the benefits of registering their land and are making steps to do so of their own accord.

The Alvie and Dalraddy Estates, near Aviemore, are owned by the Williamson family and managed by Jamie Williamson. Following a meeting with Registers of Scotland (RoS) in 2015, Jamie began the process of registering his land.

Taking the initiative to register the land at Alvie and Dalraddy, Jamie has been able to oversee the whole process. In doing so he believes he will secure a favourable result for himself, his neighbours and the wider community.

Working closely with RoS, Jamie was guided as to the best way to complete the registration process and, with the help of his staff, successfully digitised old documents such as maps and titles so that they were ready for use by the RoS team.

This process has also highlighted some inconsistencies in terms of boundaries. These have resulted in discussions with the relevant neighbours to establish clarity about the exact extent of the estate.

In registering his land, Jamie sees advantages for both him and his neighbours. Having clear and agreed boundaries set out on the Land Register will make any future sales of land or buildings much more straightforward than otherwise might have been the case. This clarity helps to smooth such processes which, in turn, saves money and allows for a more efficient and easier to manage estate in the future.



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