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Radical action now needed on land reform

This opinion piece is about 10 years old

David Cameron, chair of Community Land Scotland, welcomes the land reform review group report and calls for decisive legislation to make its recommendations a reality

David Cameron, chair, Community Land Scotland
David Cameron, chair, Community Land Scotland

The Land Reform Review Group’s report is a very substantial and comprehensive piece of work with many recommendations which could help further the cause of community land ownership .

The specific proposals to widen community land rights, to simplify Parts 2 and 3 of the current Land Reform Act, and to create a land agency to help the whole process of transferring land into community ownership, are all welcome.

What we now need is early and radical action through the forthcoming community empowerment bill to deliver necessary change

In particular we welcome recognition that land needs to be managed in the public interest and for the common good. Our finite land resource needs to be seen as more than a private good for some, whatever the public interest. The new and potentially compulsory interventions envisaged are a necessary part of how the public interest can be secured.

The recommendations to control land holdings size recognises that without such interventions in the land markets from time to time, then more land will fall into ever fewer hands, further limiting the ability of communities to take greater control of their future. Further recommendations to have greater transparency of who owns what, and to try and stop offshoring of the ownership of Scottish land are also welcome.

As ever, the devil of implementing all this will be in the detail, but the recommendations can be built into a comprehensive legislative agenda to bring about change to Scotland’s anachronistic land ownership patterns. For too long a small elite have controlled too much of Scotland and it is long past time that more people and more communities had a direct stake in the ownership of land and what that offers in fashioning a better and more just future.

The real challenge is now to the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament to take this agenda for change and make rapid progress in bringing that change about. It is only through the political will for change that it can actually happen and what we now need is early and radical action through the forthcoming community empowerment bill to deliver necessary change; building from the agenda this report sets.

David Cameron is chair of Community Land Scotland and a leading advocate of the need for more radical land reform measures