Introduction   Overview   The shape of the debate   Themes Theme 1 - A National Heritage Collection Theme 2 - Heritage for Communities Theme 3 Making heritage accessible Theme 4 Heritage and Tourism after 2014    
       
Introduction Connecting with conservation Case study Land Reform
Advocating Community Interests The options for the Trust Video Package Your views 
     
  Land Reform The National Trust for Scotland and Land Reform Inalienability Conservation Agreements Criticisms and responses Land reform review group report 2014 Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill Conservation and communities Alternative models  
     
 

The Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) appointed by the Scottish Government published its report, entitled The Land of Scotland and the Common Good, in May 2014.

Broadly, the LRRG has not proposed any radical changes, but has asked for a systematic review of land ownership and use in Scotland, along with a large number of smaller tweaks to the existing system.
 
The National Trust for Scotland and its interests are not directly featured in the report. There is only one reference to the Trust, along with other Non-Governmental Organisations as constituting ‘communities of interest’ in respect of land ownership and management.
 
The LRRG’s main recommendations are that the Scottish Government establishes a Land Reform Programme (including a National Land Policy for “fairer, wider and more equitable distribution of land”) and set-up a Scottish Land and Property Commission to monitor ownership and management of land and to make recommendations for changes in the public interest.
 
The remaining recommendations are mostly a series of tweaks to existing arrangements. Of those that might have consequences for the Trust, the following are worth noting:

• Ensure that two reservations inserted by the Crown Estate Commissioners over Crown properties are removed (mineral rights and rights to exercise Crown privileges).

• Extend community empowerment agenda to include community right to request a Compulsory Purchase Order from Scottish Ministers.

• Expectation that implementation of the Land Use Strategy will lead to reductions in the “current flexibility in rural land owners’ choices over how they use their land.”

• That there should be an upper limit (not defined) on the total amount of land that can be held by a private landowner or a single beneficial interest (our italics).

• Review scope and practicalities of introducing Land Value Taxation.

• Reduce the complexity of crofting legislation.

• Ease the administrative requirements of the Crofting Community Right to Buy.

• Give tenants under the Small Landholders (Scotland) Act 1911 the statutory right to buy their holdings, though there is not mention of the same right for farming tenancies.

• Issues over public access rights should be addressed by updating guidance.

• Riparian rights stemming from land ownership should be reviewed.

• Abolition of District Salmon Fishing Boards and replacement by statutory system for sustainable management in the public interest.

• Deer management to be largely left on the current footing, but the Government agency Scottish Natural Heritage should take a more active role in setting cull levels or carrying out culls where these are not achieved.
 
The LRRG takes issue with the treatment of Crown properties, specifically conditions relating to their transfer to Scottish Government control. However, the Group also states in the body of its report that:
 
“The Review Group considers that iconic national properties such as Edinburgh and Stirling Castles and other historic properties of equivalent national significance to Scotland should be held inalienably on behalf of the people of Scotland by Scottish Ministers.

“The Group also considers that there should be greater clarity over the historic properties owned by Scottish Ministers. It might be useful to produce a list of those considered to be held inalienably on behalf of the nation.

“The Group recognises that, while some properties could be obvious candidates for a national list, the ‘bottom end’ of the list would be more difficult to define. However, the Group considers that should not preclude drawing up a core list of Scotland’s most significant historic national properties that should be held inalienably on behalf of the nation.”
 
The LRRG considers that the current Historic Environment Scotland Bill makes this an opportune time to draw up such a list, although it is unclear if they intend properties owned privately and by charities like the Trust to be included on it alongside those held by Scottish Ministers.

The report has been generally welcomed by campaigners for land reform, although private landowners, through Scottish Land and Estates and the Scottish Countryside Alliance have expressed concern at a number of proposals, notably the capping the amount of land anyone can own due what they see as confusion between the scale of ownership and appropriate and viable land use due to the nature and condition of the terrain.

The concern for the Trust is that any legislation resulting from the report again (as was the case with the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003) fails to take account of the Trust’s special circumstances as an independent conservation charity.  This may lead to the Trust’s ongoing stewardship of important natural and historic landscapes being undermined by accident rather than design.