In its 2023-2024 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government committed to introducing a Land Reform Bill. In recent months, the Scottish Government had indicated that they were working towards introduction of the Bill in December 2023. This was consistent with the Bute House Agreement which set out the shared policy intention of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party to introduce the Bill by the end of 2023.

On 12 December 2023, the Land Reform team notified those who had responded to the Land Reform Consultation that there would be a delay in introduction of the Bill. In response to a written request for an update on the Bill, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, advised that land reform is complex and time was needed to consider the consultation responses:

"To allow time for this further consideration and ensure we get the proposals right for introduction, we are planning a slight delay to the introduction of the Bill but it remains a Programme for Government commitment for 2023-24".

It is thought that one of the main issues being considered further is the acreage threshold for "large scale landholdings". The headline proposals set out in the Consultation, notably the public interest test, will apply only to "large scale landholdings". The Consultation proposed that one of the criteria would be a threshold area of 3000 hectares. A private member's bill was published by Mercedes Villalba in June 2023 which in effect proposed the reduction of the threshold to 500 hectares. The definition of "large scale landholdings" will be crucial to the scope of the measures to be contained in the Bill and the definition will be closely examined by Parliament and stakeholders alike following its introduction.

Parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill will initially be carried out by the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee. By letter addressed to the Minister for Parliamentary Business, Edward MSP, the convener of the Committee, requested that the Scottish Government provide clarity on the timeframes as soon as possible. The response reiterated the Scottish Government's Programme for Government commitment to bring forward the Bill in 2023-2024 but failed to provide any more detail on timeframes.

We will continue to keep you updated on progress of the Land Reform Consultation and Bill.


Kate McLeish