Addressing the scope of Land Reform

The Scottish Government’s consultation paper on Land Reform also touches on important succession planning aspects of land ownership. In particular, in addition to the identification of large scale land ownerships and the regulation of the market in those land ownerships, the Scottish Government identify that land transfers which are not subject to formal conveyancing should also be within the proposed scope of their regulations. This would apply to transfers of share capital in companies which own land, and could, potentially, extend to successions or changes within trust structures, for example where trustees are changed or where the beneficial interests transfer from one generation to the next without there being a transfer of the land per se. The consultation paper specifically references large scale land holdings held by way of trusts, which would then be brought within the scope of the public interest test for transfers of large scale land ownerships. These succession matters will require to be considered in the context of the current devolved settlement between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, and it may be that further devolution or UK implementing legislation is needed in order to address a number of these aspects of the Land Reform agenda.

Graeme Gass