Patterns of land ownership and management in Scotland, both in the rural and urban environments, are changing. Last year’s ground-breaking Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 raises several important issues for owners and managers of land.

Here we chart the progress of the law from the initial stages of the Bill, through to the Bill becoming and Act, and the Act being implemented.

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Read the published Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 here »


February 1998

The seeds of modern Land Reform are sown: Lord Sewel's Land Reform Policy Group publishes the first of three reports:

"Identifying the Problems" was published in February 1998, and was a consultation document. It detailed the problems and opportunities which land reform should address. The Group went on to publish two further documents – "Identifying the solutions" and "Recommendations for Action".

June 1999

Land Reform is a key priority of the new Scottish Parliament and intended as a symbol of new politics.

Donald Dewar: "Who could imagine such a land reform bill passing unscathed through the massed ranks of the House of Lords".

February 2003

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 receives Royal Assent

The first Land Reform Act deals with (a) access rights, (b) community right to buy and (c) crofting right to buy.

June 2005

The flagship community buy out. The Glencanisp & Drumrunie Estates in Sutherland are purchased by a community body, the first under the 2003 Act.

At a price of just under £3m, the local community purchased around 44,000 acres from private land owners who wished to sell.

November 2006

Another 94,000 acres in community ownership, the South Uist crofting estate, is sold to a community body.

The island of South Uist was voluntarily sold by private owners to a community body for around £4.5m, interestingly not under the provisions of the 2003 Act.

April 2008

Access rights and the right to roam in court.

Snowie vs Stirling Council - Well publicised cases on access begin to trickle through the Courts. The Snowie case represented a victory for access takers against owners of land.

July 2012

Reform is back on the agenda – the Government announces the establishment of the Land Reform Review Group.

From the groups remit: "The relationship between the land and the people of Scotland is fundamental to the wellbeing, economic success, environmental sustainability and social justice of the country. The structure of land ownership is a defining factor in that relationship: it can facilitate and promote development, but it can also hinder it."

May 2014

The Land Reform Review Group publishes its Report.

62 wide ranging recommendations on land reform, covering issues such as ownership, aquaculture, sporting, taxation, and a host of others.



Guidance on Engaging Communities in Decisions Relating to Land

Part 4 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 required the Scottish Ministers to prepare and issue guidance about “engaging communities in decisions relating to land which may affect communities”....

The Scottish Land Commission

The Scottish Land Commission will become fully operational from 1st April 2017. In October 2016, the Scottish Government announced that the Scottish Land Commission will be based in Inverness, with...

Land Reform: Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 obliges the Scottish Ministers to prepare, consult upon and then publish a “Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement”. The Statement is intended as a set...

Implementation of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016

Following the passage of the most recent Land Reform (Scotland) Act through Parliament in 2016, the subordinate legislation required to bring the provisions of the Act into force has now...

Trade tariffs a double-edged sword for farmers, says MSP | Grierson Dunlop in The Press and Journal

This article originally appeared in The Press and Journal on Saturday 26th November 2016. The implications of land reform and Brexit on Scottish agriculture were highlighted at a specialist farming...

Food for thought on tenant farming: Grierson Dunlop in the Press & Journal

The new Land Reform (Scotland) Act is taking root and as Ministers and civil servants grapple with the nuts and bolts of the legislation, many eyes will be focused on...

Land Reform Update - April 2016

Background On 16th March 2016, the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed, as expected, by the Scottish Parliament. The Bill was passed on a day that saw many long serving...

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act Part 10 – Agricultural Holdings

The Stage 3 debate on the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill took place on 16th March 2016. Shortly afterwards, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 (“the Act”) received Royal Assent and...

Land Reform Update – December 2015

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill continues its swift passage through the parliamentary process. This note briefly summarises the position as of the end of 2015. Timescales The Stage 1 debate...

State control over land – Scotland in the European context

The notion of some form of state control over the sale and purchase of rural land is a relatively new concept in Scotland, having been introduced by the Land Reform...

Sustainable Development – What does it actually mean?

Land Reform legislation contains many and various references to the concept of sustainable development. If private owners of land are to be deprived of their property rights, then there must...

Scotsman Land Reform Seminar

Turcan Connell, in conjunction with The Scotsman, hosted a Land Reform breakfast seminar in Edinburgh on Tuesday 3rd November. Speaking at the event was John Glen of Buccleuch Estates and...
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