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Land Reform

A new discussion paper from The Jimmy Reid Foundation calls for a more radical and integrated approach to land reform in Scotland to tackle profound 21st-century policy challenges.

The Scottish Government and Parliament need to adopt a much more radical and integrated approach to land reform to tackle the profound 21st-century challenges of the climate and biodiversity crises, reverse rural depopulation, and achieve a wellbeing economy based on a fair sharing of Scotland’s land wealth for the many, not the few.

That is the key message in a new discussion paper, ‘Land Reform for the Common Good’, published today by The Jimmy Reid Foundation and written by Dr Calum MacLeod, an independent sustainable development consultant and land reform policy advisor.

You can listen to Calum’s introduction to the paper at the launch event here.

The paper argues that despite successive governments’ political rhetoric since devolution about the need to diversify Scotland’s unusually concentrated pattern of large-scale private rural land ownership, mainly by encouraging more community ownership, that dominant pattern of private ownership remains virtually unchanged.

Against the background of a forthcoming Land Reform Bill, due to be introduced to Parliament by the end of 2023 with a focus on a Public Interest Test for large-scale landholdings and related measures, the paper argues that land reform policy needs to be recognised and repositioned as a distinctive area of public policy, cutting across Government portfolios in a strategic and increasingly interventionist way for a fairer distribution of Scotland’s land wealth.

Dr Calum MacLeod said: “Our urban and rural communities are increasingly excluded from their fair share of Scotland’s land’s wealth as it is extracted by unfettered market forces and distant decision-making processes far removed from people’s everyday lives. Devolution has revitalised land reform as a public policy issue, but too much of that policy is developed and implemented in fragmented and piecemeal fashion, rather than being underpinned by a clear strategic vision about who and what Scotland’s land is for. Scotland’s land politics urgently needs to rediscover and reassert its radical edge to make land work for the common good, not the private interests of a privileged few. That means ensuring that the political rhetoric surrounding land reform is matched by much more integrated and far-reaching legislative and fiscal policy action than has hitherto been the case.”

Jimmy Reid Foundation Director, Dave Watson, said:
“Jimmy Reid highlighted ‘the centralisation and concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands’, and there are few places where this is more pronounced than in land ownership. We are therefore pleased to publish this important contribution to the debate around land reform in Scotland. How land is owned and used and, crucially, who benefits from these arrangements, is central to shaping what kind of nation Scotland aspires to be.”