The Scottish Government has established a Land Reform Review Group to undertake a review of the land reform measures introduced in 2004. The Scottish Government is seeking to address a perceived lack of clarity over the scope and purpose of land reform in Scotland.
The Group will focus on the effectiveness of both the Community Right to Buy (CRtB) and the Crofting Community Right to Buy (CCRtB). Introduced simultaneously in 2004, the CRtB is a mechanism to encourage community ownership of land in rural Scotland and the CCRtB is a means by which crofting communities could control the croft land where they live and work.
A greater number of CRtB applications than originally anticipated have been received but this has not translated into a meaningful change in land ownership. Whilst the creation of the CRtB has delivered positive outcomes, a number of barriers have been identified to communities wishing to exercise the CRtB, including: lack of land coming on to the market; the complexity of the legislation; a lack of resources to deal with exercising the right, and the rejection of applications which failed for administrative reasons.
As the CRtB operates on the basis of a right of first refusal in the event of a sale of the affected land rather than a right to buy even where the landowner does not wish to sell, any strengthening of the legislation might take the form of creating a right to buy. This would be a potentially controversial step.
To date, the CCRtB provisions have only been utilised by two community crofting bodies on Lewis and have not been used in their entirety to purchase eligible land and its associated rights. The Scottish Government's assessment of the reasons underlying this include: concern that the relevant legislative provisions may be unworkable; complex and onerous mapping requirement; and a lack of funding support and advice.
It is anticipated that the Scottish Government will be in a position to propose the required legislative changes by the end of 2013.