The Land Reform Scotland Bill

The Scottish Government has published the much anticipated Land Reform Bill. Read more here. 

The Bill aims to reform the law around large land holdings and leases of rural land. The proposed Bill contains radical proposals about how land in Scotland may be sold in the future and industry representatives have already stated serious concerns about the Bill.

Large land holdings – transfer and community engagement

Significantly, the Bill states that in certain cases the transfer of the ownership of land holdings over 1,000 hectares will be prohibited until Scottish Ministers can consider the impact on the local community. In some cases, this may result in the large land holding in question being transferred in smaller lots. Community bodies would also be given the opportunity to be informed about certain transfers of ownership and more time to register an interest in buying these types of large land holdings. The Bill also gives Scottish Ministers powers to make regulations which would apply to land holdings over 3,000 hectares and land over 1,000 hectares which constitutes more than 25% of a permanently inhabited island. These proposed regulations relate to publishing land management plans and considering requests from community bodies to lease land. A new Land and Communities Commissioner would enforce these community engagement requirements and provide reports for lotting decisions.

Occupation of rural land

On the occupation of rural land, Scottish Ministers are to produce a model lease designed for letting land to be used partly or wholly for an environmental purpose and small landholdings are to be added to the Tenant Farming Commissioner’s portfolio and made subject to a very major legislative restructuring.

Agricultural leases

In relation to agricultural leases, the Bill includes provisions enabling the Scottish Ministers to produce new regulations to deal with the registration of the tenant's right to buy and significant reforms are to be made to the law on resumption (under both 1991 Act Tenancies and the Limited Duration Tenancies) including a requirement that not less than one year’s notice of resumption is given and that a significant compensation payment is made by the landlord to the tenant on resumption taking place. Changes are made to the lists of improvements for which compensation is payable to a tenant at waygo, with regard to diversification and, in particular, to diversification that delivers environmental benefits, to the rules of good husbandry, with greater emphasis on sustainable and regenerative activities, and to the mechanisms to be followed at waygo. Major changes are made to the rent review process in both 1991 Act Leases and Limited Duration tenancies where the lease does make provision for review of rent. Tenants are to be given the right to claim compensation for losses caused by game other than to crops (e.g. to grazings, etc).

In summary

There is much to consider in the Bill but at this initial stage, it is clear that there will be a significant impact on the rural property sector. A target date for passing the Bill into law has not been publicised, and the Bill awaits the parliamentary process where it will be considered and amendments to it are certain to be made.

Further updates will follow, please contact a member of our team with any questions.