top of page
  • Writer's pictureRob Gibson

An exciting New Year for land reform 2016

Does it lie within the mischief of the Bill?

Ross Finnie

Crucial amendments over the last few weeks mean the Land Reform Bill is a feistier beast

than it would otherwise have been and much of that’s down to public pressure.

Lesley Riddoch, The National, 11 February 2016

The process to develop the transparency section of the Land Reform Bill requires to be told in one sequence; there was widespread approval across the political spectrum of the mission to know who owned Scotland. But the New Year of 2016 promised a continuation of hostilities from critics of the bill. The coordinated critiques by the lairds and land agents raised their fears about the viability of the spread of community ownership. These groups also criticised proposals from the Cabinet Secretary to offer rights for secure tenants to assign their tenancies to other secure tenants. But were the interests of property owners being seriously threatened?

Transparency breakthrough

The spark for the demand for more precise use of human rights was ignited with the Scottish Government response to the RACCE Stage 1 Report. This response finally arrived on 5 January after many hours of civil service overtime spent during the festive recess. The document suggested that incorporating international covenants was assured by the Scottish Government’s duty to include them in keeping with clauses of Scotland Act 1998. The bill team argued that explicit mention of every likely UN document would not be helpful. But. they would try to include amendments that underlined the international commitments which was RACCE’s stated wish1

Taking powers to find out who owns Scotland – the inside story

Information on the control of land in Part 3 of the bill proved to be a practical means to utilise international obligations, standards and practices. This was curated by five-sided talks that would reach a more thorough delivery of transparency over land ownership to be placed on the face of the bill.

Between 4 December 2015, the launch date of the RACCE Stage 1 Report, and 16 March 2016, the Stage 3 debate on the bill, the SHRC, led by Professor Alan Miller; Megan MacInnes of Global Witness; Peter Peacock of CLS, a former MSP and minister; Graeme Dey MSP of RACCE; and the Minister Dr Aileen McLeod and her bill Team embarked on a series of multilateral debates in private to reach a final agreement. This is testament to the extended civic engagement in the parliamentary process and of the willingness of an SNP Government to reach a commonly agreed and much more advanced outcome.

Public engagement with each phase of the land reform process had drawn hundreds of responses and many were from individuals, according to the analysis produced for the SG.2 When RACCE made a call for written evidence over 200 submissions were received. These required analysis before the committee could decide on the range of witnesses that were to give oral evidence. As this was conducted, three main priorities kept appearing. First, calls for transparency as to who owns Scotland; second, the need for more diversity of land ownership; and third, a supportive tax system to ensure all who could pay did so. I would add that, on our extensive committee tour of Scotland from Kirkwall to Dumfries where we met 354 people, the subject of affordable housing was also a heartfelt and repeated theme.

The transparency debate stemmed from a Scottish Government view that, although transparency was a prominent demand, the RoS’s primary task was to give legal certainty of ownership via a map-based register. This, in December 2015, contained 58% of Scottish properties covering 26% of the total landmass. The venerable Register of Sasines, with its far from accurate written entries deposited over the past four centuries, was slowly, far too slowly, being replaced by a map-based system. The Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012 expected public land to be mapped by 2019 and private land to follow on.3 It should be noted that two of the best European examples of multi-layered digitised and map-based land registration systems are found in Switzerland and Spain. These have taken several decades to achieve completion. Scotland only has one layer, that of title, and a cash-strapped devolved government with strong intent but limited means.4

Another pertinent register was the Register of Crofts. It was set up by the Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 and its dominant characteristics are:

It is a free-to-search, public register of crofts, common grazings, and land held in runrig… Like the Land Register, the Crofting Register is map-based. It shows defined extents of land and property on the Ordnance Survey map. It also contains information on the tenant or owner-occupier crofter on the land, as well as the landlord and/or the landowner of the registered land… the registration of crofts, now falls to the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland. Registration in the Crofting Register is compulsory on the occurrence of certain events which mainly relate to actions that need a regulatory application to the Crofting Commission for approval to change some aspect of the croft land (for example, the assignation or division of a croft).5

If crofters had to enter the map-based register, why not all other land owners? Why not decide an accelerated and compulsory approach for both private and public land? In 2012, the minister Fergus Ewing was conscious of the limited resources and personnel at the Registers and the size of the task being asked of them; there were years of work to follow.6 Thanks to Alasdair Reid and Samantha Pollock of the Scottish Parliament’s invaluable information service, SPICe, we have evidence as to why this process takes time, here and abroad, and that map-based land mapping can have many purposes. Also, it is ‘free-to-search’ in other countries as is the Crofting Register in Scotland. 7

My intern, Ethan Webster, from Edinburgh University’s Academy of Governance programme, gathered a wide range of information on land registry and ownership in December 2015 – the time when RACCE published our Stage 1 Report on the Land Reform Bill 2015. He delved into the restrictive rules of Denmark and Norway which protected local ownership of land. He noted the important opt-out in Denmark that was agreed in 1973, on its accession to the EEC, the same year as the UK. These rules prohibited the purchase of land by non-Danish owners (eg of holiday homes); Government permission was required in special cases. It’s an example I will return to later 8

The debate about how to achieve transparency of ownership had been skewed into a European context by LRRG recommendation 11 in its final report of May 2014:

The Review Group recommends that the Scottish Government should make it incompetent for any legal entity not registered in a Member State of the European Union to register title to land in the Land Register of Scotland, to improve traceability and accountability in the public interest.9

We should remember the wording of the land reform consultation which followed:

The Scottish Government understands that occasionally it can be difficult to trace and contact landowners, leading to practical difficulties for those seeking to engage with them or for enforcers of fiscal or environmental obligations.

The Review Group recommended that the Scottish Government should make it incompetent for any legal entity not registered in a Member State of the European Union (EU) to register title to land in the Land Register of Scotland, in order to improve traceability and accountability.

The Scottish Government supports the aims of this recommendation and is considering how any potential measures could work in practice whilst taking into consideration relevant policy and legal issues.10

While individual respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of an EU based approach, landowners and land agents were less impressed. So, the bill looked carefully at the ‘relevant policy and legal issues’ and, when the bill as published, it was dubbed a climb down by campaigners. When it came to the Scottish Government response, in January 2016, to RACCE’s Stage 1 Report it was made plain why the EU approach would not work. Minister Dr Aileen McLeod called it beyond the competence of the Scottish Parliament. The notion had been proposed by Andy Wightman to the LRRG and pursued by Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie in Parliament. On 5 January 2016, the Scottish Government promised to strengthen Part 3 of the bill but, bearing in mind the costs and who had a need to know on ownership details, their answer was still not convincing to MSPs and human rights activists.11 On 11 January, Megan MacInnes of Global Witness reached her third draft of ‘Key points on improving transparency and information disclosure in the LRSB [Land Reform (Scotland) Bill]’. With the help of independent legal opinion, she presented her detailed and cogent arguments to replace Sections 35 and 36 of the bill with further changes to the Land Registration etc. Act 2012.12

The public interest argument for disclosure had been flagged up by the UK Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015. This included the impetus for the disclosure of beneficial owners of companies to be held in a public register. The act appears to have motives that go far beyond tackling money laundering and terrorism and its provisions are fundamental to open government. This act had responded to the fourth EU money laundering Directive and so applies to Scottish Government policies.13 Indeed, SLaE had given evidence to RACCE at the Land Reform Bill Stage 1, Doug McAdam stated:

It’s crucial there is a clear point of contact and face of the trust or company is identified and ideally also the beneficial owner, if there is one behind that.14

Furthermore, we heard that the Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure (VGGT) recommends such disclosure to all states.

Megan explored the limitations made by ECHR Articles 6, 8, 14 and Article 1 Protocol 1 to encourage the intent of the Scottish Government for as much transparency as could be justified in law. Undoubtedly, parallel legal consultations by government lawyers arrived at similar conclusions. Thus, the exchange of ideas between campaigners and officials bore fruit. Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, Minister for Land Reform, announced on 11 January 2016:

I am pleased to confirm that the Government plans to create a public register of who controls land in Scotland and to enable this we will amend the Land Reform Bill at stage three to give the powers required to create a public register which will contain the information needed to give greater transparency about who controls our land.

More work is required on complex legal issues, such as what information should be disclosed and how to protect the privacy of individuals. So, I will put in place the necessary powers to allow further work to be done and ensure that this bill delivers a framework that gives, subject to parliamentary scrutiny, detailed information about who controls land in Scotland.15

Briefing RACCE members, Aileen confirmed that EU issues such as the free movement of capital between member states and with third countries made an EU based registry plan ultra vires. Also, tax evasion and other such matters were reserved to Westminster. Trusts could keep the issue of beneficial ownership secret so that communities or individuals could still fail to find the identity of a person with significant control over land.

The way forward was to involve new tasks for RoS. Powers were planned to provide for a public register of persons that have a controlling interest in land. Measures to take forward the registration of public land by 2019 and private land by 2024 required clear and accessible information. RoS, it was announced, was committed to Scotland’s Land Information System so that issues relating to an area of land could be disclosed in a single enquiry. The same day CLS announced on its website:

Today’s announcement is clearly a breakthrough and obviously a significant step in the right direction… it is good to see a clear intention to act on this.16

On 14 of January, the very next day, Megan MacInnes concurred in a blog and added:

This announcement has completely changed the terms of the debate about transparency in land ownership in Scotland and this can only be good.17

On 20 January 2016 RACCE began consideration of Stage 2. On transparency Graeme Dey MSP lodged an amendment based on full disclosure of ownership in the registration process. He said:

I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment on transparency of ownership, which the committee received in the formal response to our Stage 1 report. The fact that the minister has indicated an intention to lodge amendments in that regard at Stage 3 represents progress on reaching the goal – which is shared by stakeholders, the committee, the wider public and the Government – of us as a nation having a far clearer idea of who owns and controls land in Scotland.

Given the complex nature of the issue and the fact that my amendments may have flaws – despite the considerable work that Megan MacInnes of Global Witness and Peter Peacock of Community Land Scotland did on them – I recognise that the minister may not be entirely comfortable with accepting them, not least because the Government has had only a week to consider them. However, I lodged them in the spirit of common purpose on the principles of transparency and because I believe that they point to a possible and implementable way forward.18

Patrick Harvie MSP appeared at the committee to lodge amendments that pursued the registration under the EU approach. The minister rehearsed the difficulties of inconsistent records in each EU Member State and in the event only the two Labour members voted for his stance. All parties agreed that the greatest transparency was essential and Graeme Dey’s amendment was passed unanimously.

This was welcomed in press comment with optimism that radical land reform measures would now be possible in a bill that had seemed to some commentators too limp. Transparency was widely supported across the land ownership divide, but journalist and Our Land campaigner Lesley Riddoch and Common Space preferred the Green Party’s amendment on registration in the EU. She echoed hopes that it too could be incorporated in the bill. Riddoch admitted that that many land reform supporters were ‘astonished and chuffed’ that Graeme Dey’s amendment had been met with support from the minister who had not opposed the amendment and then undertook to bring in a watertight wording to be debated at Stage 3.19 Riddoch was at pains to suggest even Scottish Government lawyers and policymakers had given long-overdue recognition that the current bill ‘really is unacceptably limp in key parts’. She praised campaigners for effecting this welcome climbdown. They had ensured in Riddoch’s words that they had ‘turned land reform into a litmus test of the SNP’s capacity to deliver radical change’. Nevertheless, she concluded ‘this week, the chances of a radical Land Reform Bill got a whole lot better.’20

RACCE members who had absorbed the impact of the legal advice on what was achievable, and listened to the minister, realised that the LRRG recommendation and its preference for a Europe-wide solution, was not well founded in legal terms. Radical MSPs inside parliament had worked with well-informed NGOs and provided the breakthrough which the wider public was demanding. 21 In the event, criticism of the Stage 2 process that took place over four Wednesday mornings (and early afternoons) from 20 January to 10 February was much more agitated about Part 10 on agricultural holdings and moves by the Scottish Government to introduce new clauses that widened the scope for assignation and succession of farm tenancies.

At Stage 3, on 16 March, the Harvie EU based transparency amendments were again rejected and the minister’s revised amendments to Sections 35 and 36 were passed when, as promised, they took the spirit of Graeme Dey’s work and made it legally defensible. Such was the outcome of an excellent collaboration by the NGOs, MSPs and government to achieve a new and enhanced role for RoS that was set to include questions in the land registration process that would establish ‘persons with a controlling interest’ in the same entry as the confirmation of who had a ‘real interest’ in the property as in the ancient Register of Sasines under an enhanced map-based system.22

Scottish Government responds to Stage 1 Report on Land Reform Bill

A 76-page ministerial response to the RACCE report appeared on 5 January 2016. Consisting of 296 paragraphs it was a detailed and measured document. Readers could see a range of ideas for progress, many of which acknowledged the committee’s views. Others, with the ghostly imprint of lawyers’ advice avoided ECHR and similarly fraught litigious traps.23 We pored over the details, as did many others. Some of them took aim within a very few days.

On 10 January, I received an email from Ewen MacPherson of Attadale noting my discussion at the SLaE meeting before Christmas with his daughter Joanna and my letter to his son Sir Nicholas. MacPherson raised concerns about the costs to taxpayers of many existing land buy-outs, he mentioned Eigg and Gigha, that would, in his words, ‘need further public funding’. He went on:

What will occur in the future if it is decided that one of the buy-outs is not viable and that no further money is available. Will it be put up for auction? The history of governments messing about with property rights is not encouraging.24

Curiously, land agents Bidwells, in their winter newsletter News from Scotland, asked very similar questions. An article described as ‘Expert Advice’ by Raymond Henderson under the headline, ‘Clarity required on land reform vision’, claimed that there was no over-riding vision by the Scottish Government:

It seems illogical to produce a bill when there is no clarity in what it intends to achieve.

As if to ignore this stricture, Mr Henderson then claimed a, ‘lack of transparency in relation to funding of community ownership’. Presumably the same sources of funding tapped so successfully by private estates was what he meant? And again, from Bidwells:

We believe it is appropriate that before embarking on a much accelerated, tremendously ambitious programme of further transfer, there should be a process of proper checks and balances – a serious look at the real costs and liabilities that go with land ownership and levels of ongoing public funding that may be required in many cases. As taxpayers, the people of Scotland have a right to see the full picture.25

SLaE research suggested that large tracts of hill land under deer and grouse often make a loss and that many landlords subsidise their private kingdoms in the hills from non-land-based income. Ewen MacPherson clearly confirmed this.

In the Farming Supplement of the P&J on 16 January, the Earl of Seafield called for the conversion of secure farm tenancies to Modern Limited Duration Tenancies. This would reduce the security of tenant farmers and suit the lairds, allowing them to get more leverage on their land holdings. The Earl objected strongly to Mr Lochhead’s intention to propose that a retiring farmer with a 1991 tenancy could assign his lease to a new entrant or improving farmer with continued security of tenure. Seafield amplified the longstanding SLaE view that this ‘could have a detrimental impact on landlords’. Proprietors seeking to claw back control of their farmland had been featured prominently in the evidence received by MSPs up and down the country. The lairds always assured us of their full support for a vibrant tenanted sector, but only if the tenants were subject to their wishes and, of course, to their own business plans.26 The Earl of Stair also wrote to me on very similar lines at that time. He claimed Mr Lochhead’s proposal would ‘perpetuate the stalemate and tie in disputes and legal challenge for another decade’. 27

I decided, as a result of this heavy lobbying by landlords, that a personal statement was required ahead of Stage 2’s deliberations. The lairds had complained about bias and about the negative angles of the bill’s proposals to landlords letting land. The return of shooting rates came a close second. On 17 January, I released a personal statement to sympathetic media outlets and awaited the inevitable reaction.

News Release: Amending stage of the Land Reform Bill – a time for sustainable development!

I read the press and pressure group comments about how amending the Land Reform Bill is down to hardy campaigners. Yes, but many of these operate inside Holyrood and indeed inside the RACCE committee charged with the bill’s scrutiny and development.

You would think that the oft repeated tale of grassroots SNP members demanding a more radical Land Reform Bill was like a cattle prod to the Scottish Government to apply the Land Reform Review Group report to the letter.

In fact, the quiet work of dialogue and debate inside the Parliament has focused minds on ways to enhance the original proposals. Giving them a cutting edge that campaigners outside Holyrood would wish also requires knowledge of various lobbyists’ perspectives and of MSPs’ own engagement to influence the bill team’s response.

Happily, the Scottish Human Rights Commission and specific human rights lawyers along with Community Land Scotland have engaged in the substance of evolving the aims of sections of the bill. A variety of MSP and Land Reform Minister proposed amendments have appeared for the first six parts of the bill. More amendments will follow for parts seven to ten.

I can see that the landowners and their organisations have been hyper-active, applying various tactics. I have never heard from so many Lords, Earls, and Dukes in my life. Take the Earl of Seafield, who wrote in the P&J farming section on 16 January. Discussing a proposed government amendment said to allow secure 1991 tenant farmers to assign their tenancies to new secure tenants, Lord Seafield says this ‘will clearly impact on the property rights of landlords…’

That view has been echoed by other noble lords as proprietors of agricultural tenanted estates. Yet no heed is paid by SLaE and its members to the shrinking of tenants’ rights since the 1948 Act. On the contrary, SLaE spokesperson Stuart Young from Dunecht Estates warned RACCE last March that their senior counsel’s opinion saw an ECHR breach on open assignation proposals that could ‘ultimately leave the Government with the prospect of a hefty £600 million for paying compensation to landlords’. So, no pressure then?

Peter Hetherington in his recent book, Whose Land Is Our Land, interviewed the Duke of Northumberland and his cousin the Duke of Buccleuch, who with many of their noble friends he dubs ‘property developers’.

Their interests are in letting land to maximise income while allegedly offering minimum security for their tenants. Feeding the nation appears to be a poor second, argues Hetherington, to keeping a grasp of every acre of Scotland’s soil where so very few own so very much.

While these tenancy matters will come at the end of this five-week cycle of amendments to the bill, the landed interest is getting in a polite lather. Alex Fergusson MSP speaking for them called the bill ‘rushed’. According to their logic it should be a separate bill in the next parliament, not now – not ever?

Clearly the lobbying gets intense as the committee reaches Stage 2. I welcome the arguments and the Government’s responses. Press comments have rarely analysed the detail but merely cut and pasted the various press releases. Pressure from commentators should not be mistaken for radical opinions that have grasped the complexities of making ECHR compliance work for the common good. However, the general thrust of serious and often collaborative amendments will show that an overwhelming majority of MSPs support the radical thrust of the Land Reform Bill that puts human rights, rather than solely property rights, as the driving force of the public interest.

Richard Lochhead and Aileen McLeod wrote to the RACCE committee in early January:

Considering the Stage 1 report, and the Stage 1 debate, the Scottish Government will work to strengthen the bill where possible to ensure that it will contribute to our core objectives for land reform:

• Encourage and support responsible and diverse land ownership;

• Increase transparency of land ownership in Scotland;

• Help ensure communities have a say in how land in their area is used;

• Address issues of fairness, equality and social justice connected to the ownership of,

access to and use of land in Scotland; and

• Help to underpin a thriving tenant farming sector in Scotland.

I believe the Scottish Parliament will see this bill gets to be as substantially radical as humanly possible at this time.

Rob Gibson MSP28

(I write this as an individual but conscious of my role as RACCE convener for this crucial stage in the land reform journey) 17.1.16

The expected retorts by landlords duly arrived. They opposed key sections of the bill despite it being based on lengthy consultation and in the case of agricultural tenancies following years of prolonged debate. My inbox filled up as critics decrying my ‘bias’ vented their spleen. David Johnstone SLaE chairman questioned my position regards his organisation.

Of course, landowners have their own commercial interests but I am sorry that you felt obliged to portray us as people with only our own interests at heart. I would suggest that in 21st century Scotland we are business people who hold rural Scotland dear and strive to make it a better place for all.29

Alan Cochrane wrote, in the Daily Telegraph on 20 January, that ‘behind the moderate mask we can see the true face of Nationalism’. He also referred to the RACCE scrutiny of the bill as a ‘polite fiction’. And he went on:

As far as Mr Gibson and the SNP members on the committee are concerned its job is not to scrutinise the bill but to radicalise its proposals as far as they can, thereby, changing forever the nature of land ownership in Scotland.

Alan Cochrane poured more spleen on my motives and partiality ahead of Stage 2 debates:

Given the way all Holyrood committees are stuffed with Nats there was never any chance of a balanced view on this or any other legislation from the SNP Government.30

What a pity his remarks blithely ignored the biggest section of Scots voters who elected a majority SNP Government? That’s something no Tories can ever stomach. Cochrane made that plain. He ignored the Lib Dem, Labour, Green and SNP votes for each stage of the bill making the measure a reflection of the broad wishes of Scottish voters. Why let such facts get in the way of his right-wing polemic? The well-documented anti-land reform campaign by landowning interests makes Mr Cochrane’s remarks unfit for serious consideration. But then the language of politics in the Farage era has been coarsening and the Daily Telegraph has not been slow to join in.

The landlords had attempted to stop a wider range of persons entitled to succeed to a secure farm tenancy. They failed. Unfortunately, the Lib Dem member Jim Hume often joined Alex Fergusson to press the lairds’ case. SNP and Labour members saw the amendments through. So, the committee wasn’t just ‘stuffed with Nats’.

The SPICe briefing which was published on 7 March 2016, ahead of Stage 3 of the bill, and compiled by Tom Edwards, Wendy Kenyon and Alasdair Reid, explains the key changes voted through at Stage 2:

The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill (the Bill) was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 22 June 2015. Stage 2 of the Bill took place at our meetings of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee between 20 January and 10 February 2016, where the committee considered over 300 amendments.

Significant amendments include a change in approach to Part 3 – Information on About the Control of Land, where the Government is expected to bring forward broad regulation making powers at Stage 3 which will provide for the creation of a public register which requires the disclosure of information about persons who control land. A significant change was also made to Part 10 of the Bill in relation to farm tenancies. As introduced the bill provided a regulation making power for Scottish Ministers to allow 1991 Act tenancies to be converted into the new form of Minimum Limited Duration Tenancy, also created by Part 10. Government amendments passed during Stage 2 would now allow a 1991 Act tenant to sell or assign their tenancy to an individual who is either a ‘new entrant’ or ‘progressing in farming’ (terms to be defined in subordinate legislation) having first given the landlord the opportunity to buy the lease back at a price fixed by an independent valuation. The tenancy would remain a 1991 Act tenancy, with the same rights eg of security of tenure.31

Other changes mentioned had included specifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests as relevant human rights that Ministers must have regard to.

As described above, the significance of the transparency amendment was seen as a signal by campaigners that the bill was being beefed up. To members of RACCE we were seeing the fruits of quiet persuasion based on what was legally valid being endorsed by government following MSP and NGO ground work. As per parliamentary rules, the Stage 2 Report was published on 18 February so that Stage 3 amendments could be lodged in good time.

Stage 3 concluded successfully

Amendments at Stage 3 usually fall into three types. First, there is the tidying up done by the government of the day along with member’s amendments discussed and sympathetic to the government aims for the bill. Second, there are probing amendments to draw out a sympathetic government response. Third, failed amendments from Stage 2 that members wish to pursue to a vote to make a political point that are usually agreed for debate by the Presiding Officer.

In a large bill, such as this was, the range of concerns took several hours to debate and vote on. Contentious matters raised included attempts by Tory and Lib Dem members in Section 47 to curtail the range of discretion of government, both in the letter of the law and in regulations to follow, over community right to buy issues which affected existing farm tenants. These were rebuffed by ministers and voted down by SNP, Labour and Green MSPs.

Sarah Boyack and Patrick Harvie pursued ideas of giving compulsory purchase powers to local authorities to provide land for allotments. Ministers agreed to consult on the matter if the forthcoming election in May returned an SNP Government.

Patrick Harvie led on taxing vacant and derelict land by having these registered amongst other landed property owners. Again, the government offered to consult after the election on the subject as conflicts could arise between local authorities and central government concerning the appropriate rates to levy. He also pressed his proposal to have all property owners registered in an EU jurisdiction to promote openness of ownership. As was previously debated at Stage 2 this was likely to be beyond the competence of the Scottish Parliament’s powers. Despite vocal backing from land reform campaigners the proposal, that was first mooted by the LRRG, was deemed incompetent and voted down despite Green and Labour support.

After Stage 3 amendments were completed the wrap up debate offered members a final chance to air their verdicts. Disappointment, approval and various degrees of approbation flowed across the Chamber. The main protagonists had their say on aspects of the previous years of preparation and nine months of actual scrutiny of the bill. Unfortunately, Dr Aileen McLeod was too ill to conclude her responses, so Paul Wheelhouse took over her role. But the final words went to Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment and the longest serving minister in that portfolio. He concluded:

The Government will continue to do everything possible to support Scotland’s land reform programme. The Parliament will continue to hold us to account to ensure that the bill is as effective as we all want it to be.

Like all legislation, however, the bill can only ever provide the tools and mechanisms for democratic accountability. Ultimately, the bill is about empowering communities and individuals to take control and giving them new opportunities to shape their future and their lives.

Every time we debate land reform in the Parliament there is a sense of history. We can all be confident today that the Parliament is making history and building a better Scotland. I urge all members to support the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill this evening. 33

In the vote, MSPs decided by 102 votes to 14 to pass the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill. 33

Monthly update of register Land Bill becomes an Act Telegraph comment on SNP


1 Scottish Government response to RACCE Stage 1 Report, 5 January 2016

2 Independent Analysis of Consultation Results for SG

3 Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Act 2012

4 Ethan Webster, ‘Scottish Land Reform 2015: Land Registry and Ownership’


6 SPICe briefing, 2016

7 Ethan Webster, ‘Scottish Land Reform 2015: Land Registry and Ownership’

8 LRRG, Final Report 2014

9 Scottish Government response to LRRG Report 2014

10 ibid.

11 Scottish Government strengthen Part 3

12 Megan MacInnes, private papers

13 Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015

14 RACCE OR, Doug Adam, October 2015?

15 RACCE OR, Aileen McLeod, 11 January 2016

16 Community Land Scotland, 13 January 2016

17 Megan MacInnes blog, 14 January 2016

18 RACCE OR, 11 January 2016

19 Lesley Riddoch, The National, 21 January 2016,

20 ibid.

21 Scottish Parliament, OR Stage 3, 16 March 2016

22 ibid.

23 Scottish Government Response to Stage 1 Report on Land Reform Bill

24 Ewen MacPherson, email, 10 January 2016

25 Bidwells, News from Scotland, Winter 2015

26 The Earl of Seafield, P&J, 16 January 2016

27 The Earl of Stair, undated letter to Rob Gibson

28 Rob Gibson, 17 January 2016

29 David Johnstone, letter, 26 January 2016

30 Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph, 20 January 2016

31 SPICe briefing 16/24, 7 March 2016

32 Scottish Parliament, Stage 2 call for amendments, 18 February 2016

33 Scottish Parliament OR, Land Reform (Scotland) Bill Stage 3, 16 March 2016

47 views0 comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page