Following on from its recent consultation, the Scottish Government has recently issued Circular 5/2011 setting out the non-statutory guidance known as the Crichel Down Rules.

The Crichel Down Rules govern how Government departments dispose of surplus land which was acquired by, or under a threat of, compulsion by offering such land back to former owners and their successors.

The Circular complements existing guidance by providing a set of rules to which identified departments – whether public or since privatised – should adhere in disposing of land.

The rules apply to disposals of land which has not materially altered in character since its acquisition, or which are otherwise not specifically excluded by the rules.

The rules take their name from the Crichel Down affair in which land was acquired by the Ministry of Defence in 1938 with a promise by the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill to return the land to its owners once it was no longer required for the war effort.  An Inquiry was convened when this did not happen, which eventually led to the land being returned to the owners and the development of the rules to avoid a repeat of the affair.