Scottish Land Reform Bill to proposes community land buying powers

Scottish ministers could be able to force landowners to sell their land to enable community groups to 'further sustainable development' under measures in the Scottish government's Land Reform Bill, published yesterday.

Scotland: land reform gathers pace
Scotland: land reform gathers pace

Measures in the bill would allow ministers to intervene to enable "community bodies" to buy land "to further sustainable development".

The bill says "sustainable development conditions" would be met if the transfer of land is likely "to further the achievement of sustainable development in relation to the land, the transfer of land is in the public interest, the transfer of land— (i) is likely to result in significant benefit to the relevant community … to which the application relates, and (ii) is the only practicable way of achieving that significant benefit, and (iii) not granting consent to the transfer of land is likely to result in significant harm to that community".

The measure would apply in both urban and rural Scotland.

The bill does not define "sustainable development".

Land reform minister, Dr. Aileen McLeod, said: "We cannot underestimate the crucial part land reform will play in contributing to the future success of communities across Scotland.

"Through the Land Reform Bill we want to ensure that future generations have access to land required to promote business and economic growth and to provide access to good quality, affordable food, energy and housing".

Scottish Land & Estates, which represents landowners across Scotland, said the right to buy measure in the bill was a "key concern".

Chairman David Johnstone said: "No-one would try to justify bad practice when it comes to land management but there desperately needs to be more clarity around the circumstances in which a government minister thinks it will be right and proper for he or she to decide a landowner is a barrier to sustainable development and forcibly remove someone’s property."

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