The Scottish Government’s consultation on its “land rights and responsibilities statement” is closing on 10 March 2017.

By way of some background, part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 obliges the Scottish Ministers to prepare, consult on and publish a land rights and responsibilities statement. The 2016 Act also contains a list of factors which the Scottish Ministers must take into account when preparing the statement. The factors include promoting human rights, supporting and facilitating community empowerment and increasing the diversity of land ownership.

The consultation paper includes a draft statement which consists of six principles, each of which are summarised below:

  • the overall framework of land rights and responsibilities should contribute towards building a fairer society
  • there should be increasingly diverse land ownership and tenure
  • more local communities should be given opportunities to own land and buildings
  • holders of land rights should recognise their responsibilities and act as stewards of Scotland’s land resources
  • information on land should be publicly available, clear and detailed
  • there should be wider community engagement in decisions about land

Whilst the principles are broad in nature, they give us a strong indication of the direction of any future land reform. However, it is perhaps worth noting that the 2016 Act obliges the Scottish Ministers to promote the principles when exercising their functions (in far as reasonably practicable). It seems that the principles could be relevant to any decisions taken by the Scottish Ministers, not just when it comes to making legislative proposals for future land reform.

The consultation asks for views on each of the draft principles. The draft principles may of course be subject to change once the consultation responses have been analysed. The timeframe for publication of the final statement is not yet known.