Scottish Countryside Alliance

 
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Reform Review Groups call for evidence

Scottish Countryside Alliance welcomes the opportunity to debate Land Reform

 

The Scottish Countryside Alliance (SCA) welcomed the opportunity to further participate in the Land Reform debate within Scotland through the recent Land Reform Review Groups call for evidence. The SCA participated in the consultation process prior to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (LRS 2003) and believe that many of the objectives within the LRS 2003 have been acceptably achieved. We feel that it would be wrong to simply review the aspects of the Act that the government felt had failed to deliver without acknowledging the substantial successes.

 

We noted the fact that recent evidence, from several sources, indicated that awareness of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code had increased substantially in recent years, both amongst recreational users and amongst land managers (MacLeod Research Ltd, 2011; TNS Research International, 2010). Survey findings indicated that visits to the outdoors for recreational purposes had remained stable since 2006, and there was a decrease in the frequency of recreational users experiencing access problems. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that the access rights contained in the LRS 2003 have served to increase the confidence of access-takers in relation to exercising their rights (MacLeod et al, 2010).

 

The SCA sought to remind the government that the increased access to Scotland’s wider countryside had been embraced, endorsed and managed by privately owned estates, individual and community based landowners, demonstrating a “civic responsibility”. With many erecting information signs at strategic points, where they would be seen by visitors keen to lean more; with headline messages such as “Welcome to the Moor”.

It came as no surprise that the Community Right to Buy issue dominated the academic literature in comparison to either access rights or crofting. Aside from the challenges thrown up by the administrative processes of the community right to buy and the need to manage potential conflict with landowner’s interests, much depends on the human and financial resources available to a group as regards whether they will engage with the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. It remains the case that most community groups ‘experience of the LRS 2003 has been confined to going through attempted or actual registration of an interest to purchase land, with no clear results in terms of gaining land or assets.

The Community and Crofting Right to Buy element of the LRA 2003 has struggled to inspire communities to take up ownership, for many reasons, but with an overarching financial bar. Fundamentally prospective applicants are failing through the lack of a financially viable/sustainable business plans as opposed to an unresponsive or prohibitive landowner.  

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