The definition of “fairer”

Monday 20 January 2014
Enterprise and Environment

Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government what the definition of “fairer” is in the Minister for Environment and Climate Change’s comment to BBC Scotland that “There should be a fairer distribution of land, communities should have access to land to fulfil their aspirations.” (S4W-19122)

Paul Wheelhouse:

The Scottish Government recognises that the current distribution of land is highly concentrated, given that reportedly just 432 landowners own 50% of the privately owned land in Scotland and that this concentration of ownership may lead to constraints upon fair access to land to enable communities and individuals to achieve their full potential.

The Scottish Government cannot pre-empt the outcome of the final report from the independent Land Reform Review Group, or the outcome of the ministerial-led review of Agricultural Holdings Legislation which are both due to report back later this year. However, our vision is for a fairer, or wider and more equitable, distribution of land in Scotland where communities and individuals have access to land and, where such is lacking, that there is the necessary diversity of tenure. The Scottish Government believe that Scotland needs to ensure communities are empowered to consider how land in their community is used, and that the system allows communities to fulfil their aspirations. This government also believes that land should be available to provide opportunities for new entrants to farming and forestry. Scotland is on a journey to delivering land reform and to enable improvements to engaging with communities on optimising land use. This government believes that the nation’s land should be used to benefit the people and environment of Scotland to deliver sustainable economic growth with due regard for impacts on the environment and upon the health and wellbeing of communities across Scotland.

To fulfil Scotland’s potential, this government believes we need to build a society with greater diversity of land ownership, where communities have access to land to fulfil their aspirations and needs and to support business and employment in rural areas, including in traditional rural sectors, and for provision of community infrastructure, such as housing and green space. This includes community land buy-outs to achieve greater distribution of land to communities, sustainable development and realise increased economic vitality and employment. There are currently just under 500,000 acres of land under community ownership and the Scottish Government is committed to a target of achieving 1 million acres of land in community ownership by 2020. The Community Empowerment Bill will streamline and extend the existing community right to buy contributing to this target to ensure communities have access to land needed for housing, environmental and employment opportunities and the Scottish Government, as one of Scotland’s largest landowners, is active in exploring opportunities for creation of new community ownership projects through appropriate transfers of ownership from the Scottish Government estate.