First Minister Alex Salmond has announced a review of land reform legislation in Scotland.
Speaking from Skye, where the Cabinet was meeting, he stated that he hoped the review would "deliver radical change for both rural and urban areas, developing new ideas which will improve current legislation as well as generating even more innovative proposals”.
It is expected that the final remit of the review will be agreed by autumn of this year, with a report on any proposed legislative changes to be published by the end of 2013.
The Scottish Government has also published a research paper, Overview of Evidence on Land Reform in Scotland. The paper summarises the implementation and progress of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (“2003 Act”), focusing on three key aspects of the 2003 Act:
- Access Rights;
- Community Right to Buy; and
- Crofting Community Right to Buy.
Perhaps the most interesting of the findings published in the research paper relates to the Community Right to Buy. The paper states that there have been many more applications than was initially predicted before the 2003 Act came into being - it was predicted there would be around 25 applications in the first year and then about 5 per year thereafter. Since the 2003 Act, we have seen 142 applications to register a community interest, 95 of which have been approved.
However, these applications, although numerous, have only brought about a relatively modest change in land ownership. Where land has been purchased through the provisions, the size of the land purchased has been small. That said, there is evidence to suggest that the fact that the legislation is in place may “encourage” landowners who in the past may have gone straight to the market, to try and negotiate private sales with local communities in the first instance.
We will be following the progress of the review with interest and will report further on its progress in the coming year.