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Dr Aileen McLeod address to Scottish Land Owners

Members of Scottish Land & Estates are firmly of the view that the use of land is as important – perhaps more – as who owns it. We believe in diversity of ownership and no matter who owns land, making the most of it for widespread benefit is a common goal. One thing that is certain is that we cannot make any more land.

Therefore the privilege of managing, using and owning land comes with further responsibilities to wider society and that is something we at Scottish Land & Estates recognise and is highlighted in our Landowner’s Commitment.

 

The passage of this land reform debate has been a tough time for those that live in the countryside, because at times it feels like the good that we do is largely ignored in the drive to be radical, and could indeed have unintended consequences, but we remain committed to working with the Scottish Government for a more prosperous and vibrant countryside for all.

As we near the end of the parliamentary process for the Land Reform Bill, and begin to look ahead to its implementation, the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod has recently been in touch with me and has asked to address directly Scottish Land & Estates members:

“The Scottish Government’s vision for land reform is that Scotland’s land should deliver the greatest benefit to all the people of Scotland, and contribute to building a fairer and more prosperous nation. In recent weeks we have brought forward amendments to the Land Reform Bill to further strengthen it and I believe that the reforms proposed in the Bill will benefit all those with a stake in the future of land ownership and land management in Scotland.

“The completion of Parliament’s stage two consideration of the Bill is an important step in our land reform journey. The Bill will result in fundamental improvements in how land in Scotland is owned, used and managed and change the relationship between the people of Scotland and the land that we live, work and depend on. It will ensure a Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement is published and establish the Scottish Land Commission. These provisions show our commitment to develop an overarching vision to guide land reform in Scotland, and signal an end to the stop start nature of land reform which has characterised the land reform debate over the last 100 years or so.

“Some of these changes have provoked debate, including the new provisions to allow 1991 Act tenants to relinquish their tenancies in exchange for payment from the landlord or to assign the tenancy to a new or progressing farmer. However, our aim is to ensure a fair balance between the interests of tenants and landowners, whilst being mindful of the wider public interest. In developing these policies we have reflected feedback we received from stakeholders, including from Scottish Land and Estates, and we will continue to engage with all those with an interest in the Bill in the run up to Stage three.

“There are many good examples of communities and landowners working together for mutual benefit, and a key aim of the Bill will be to encourage wider adoption of good practice. The Bill will require that Scottish Ministers issue guidance about engaging communities in decisions relating to land that may affect those communities and I have been very encouraged by SLE’s support for this measure. Making the guidance work will require the active support of landowners. I look forward to working with SLE, and other key stakeholders, to create guidance that is effective, workable, and supports the aspirations of both landowners and communities.

“I recognise the expertise and role of land owners in managing land, and the contribution that many landowners make to our economy at both a local and national level. Scottish Land & Estates are already making efforts to publicise information from landowners about the positive efforts that estates are making in their local areas, through its Helping It Happen campaign. Similarly, Scottish Land & Estates has pro-actively supported issues such as transparency of ownership, which was encouraged through the Scottish Land & Estate’s landowners’ commitment published in September 2014.

“The organisation has also been playing an important role in working with the Registers of Scotland to help develop plans and undertake the work to complete the Land Register by 2024. We welcome this collaboration and hope it will continue and grow so that we can maximise opportunities to ensure that ultimately land delivers benefit for both communities and landowners. I believe that the reforms proposed in the Bill will benefit all those with a stake in the future of the ownership, use and management of land in Scotland.

“I remain open to suggestions about our land reform journey and will continue to listen to any further suggestions and take action where needed across our wider package of land reform measures to deliver necessary changes over the longer term.”

Dr Aileen McLeod
Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform

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