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 of principles that will guide the development of land reform policy – as part of the Government’s stated aim of ending the “stop start” nature of land reform. Further, the act requires that the Scottish Ministers must promote the principles of the Statement in the general exercise of their government functions. No doubt the Statement will be often consulted, once approved, by the new Scottish Land Commission.
On 21st December 2016, the Scottish Government published a draft statement, and invited views in a consultation document. The overall vision is expressed as follows:-
“The ownership, management and use of land and buildings in Scotland should contribute to the collective benefit of the people of Scotland. A fair, inclusive and productive of land rights and responsibilities should deliver greater public benefits and promote economic, social and cultural rights”.
The Specific Principles
In addition to the the general vision, six specific principles are set out in the draft and these are as follows:-
1. The overall framework of land rights, responsibilities and associated public policies governing the ownership, management and use of land, should contribute to building a fairer society in Scotland and promote environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and social justice.
2. There should be an increasingly diverse and widely dispersed pattern of land ownership and tenure, which properly reflects national and local aspirations and needs.
3. More local communities should be given the opportunity to own buildings and land which contribute to their community's wellbeing and future development.
4. The holders of land rights should recognise their responsibilities to meet high standards of land ownership, management and use, acting as the stewards of Scotland's land resource for future generations.
5. Information on land should be publicly available, clear and detailed.
6. There should be wide community engagement in decisions about land.
Within the six proposed principles, there is an interesting mix of some very broad principles, and some quite specific principles. For example, proposal No. 1 (that the ownership of land should promote environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and social justice) is wide. Proposal No. 5, for example, (information on land should be publicly available, clear and detailed) is quite specific.
It is also notable that many of the principles are focused on land ownership, rather than land use. Five out of the six principals relate almost exclusively to the ownership of land, rather than the management of land.
The close of date for the consultation is Friday 10th March 2017.