On 22nd June 2015, the ground-breaking Scottish Land Reform Bill was laid out before parliament. The Bill became an Act of the Scottish Parliament in April 2016, and will likely change patterns of land ownership and management in Scotland, both in the rural and also the urban environments.
However, the introduction of radical land reform in Scotland could raise 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 then the Act being implemented.
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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".
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.