What is the Statement?
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 required Scottish Ministers to produce a statement on land rights and responsibilities. The Statement was published in September 2017 following consultation with stakeholders and the public. The Statement sets out the vision and principles for land rights and responsibilities in Scotland which apply to all land, urban and rural, and to everyone in Scotland, acknowledging those parties with decision making powers in relation to land have an important role to play.
What are the current vision and principles?
The vision statement is "a Scotland with a strong and dynamic relationship between its land and people, where all land contributes to a modern and successful country, and where rights and responsibilities in relation to land are fully recognised and fulfilled."
The six principles are:-
- Land policy should promote and respect human rights in relation to land; contribute to public interest and wellbeing; balance public and private interests; support sustainable economic development; protect and enhance the environment; and help achieve social justice, building a fairer society;
- Land ownership and tenure should be more diverse;
- Local communities should have more opportunities to own, lease or use buildings and land which can contribute to their community’s wellbeing and future development;
- Holders of land rights should act in ways that meet high standards of land ownership, management and use, contributing to sustainable growth and a modern, successful country;
- Greater transparency of land ownership, use and management information which is publicly available and clear; and
- Greater collaboration and community engagement in decisions about land.
The vision and principles contained within the Statement do not of themselves create any legal rights or obligations for individuals, rather they act as a guide which should be looked to in formulating policy and legislation relating to land in all its aspects whether that be land reform, planning, housing, environmental or otherwise. The Scottish Ministers must, in so far as reasonably practicable, promote the principles within the Statement when exercising their functions.
The Scottish Land Commission introduced the Good Practice Programme in 2019 which seeks to promote and support change and good practice in land ownership and use in both urban and rural environments. The Commission has produced a number of protocols and guidance to encourage and help those with an interest in land to recognise and fulfil their rights and responsibilities in accordance with the Statement. Additionally, the Commission has provided training and direct support to landowners and developed the Land Rights and Responsibilities Self Assessment Pilot Programme, which sought to explore the effectiveness of a voluntary review process of self assessment against the Statement.
What is happening now?
The Scottish Ministers require to review the Statement every 5 years, with the first review due by September 2022, at which time proposals for amendment or reasons for not making changes must be laid before the Scottish Parliament. The consultation which closed on 28 January 2022 sought the views of stakeholders and the public on whether the Statement should be amended.
The consultation identifies that various issues have arisen or become more prevalent in the last five years that might inform amendment of the Statement, including leaving the EU, the global pandemic and climate change. It states that such matters need to be considered in the context of the Statement supporting a healthy relationship between the land and people of Scotland.
By way of example, at consultation stage the proposed updated vison (changes italicised) was "a Scotland with a strong and dynamic relationship between its land and people, where all land contributes to a modern and successful country and supports a just transition to net zero, and where rights and responsibilities in relation to land and natural capital are fully recognised and fulfilled".
We await the result of the consultation process and any proposals for amendment.