A COALITION of organisations and individuals have united to call for the Scottish Government’s Land Reform Bill to be strengthened.

Dozens of people who work in agriculture, community ownership, conservation and ecological regeneration, economic development and social enterprise have signed a letter calling on the government to do more.

In the letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, 35 organisations and land reform experts warn the current proposed legislation will not address the fundamental weaknesses in Scotland’s “outdated and damaging land ownership system”.

Scotland’s land ownership is concentrated with around 433 landowners privately owning around half the land.

READ MORE: 'Strong support' for reform to Scottish land ownership, says poll

In comparison, less than three percent of Scotland is owned by communities.

Signatories of the letter have called for tighter measures around land ownership, including prioritising the public's considerations and enacting more meaningful penalties for those who fail to comply with management plans.

They are also calling for greater transparency around land ownership transfers and urban areas to be included in the Land Reform Bill proposals.

The letter to Gougeon (below) said: “Critically, the Bill conflates land ownership and management without meaningfully addressing either.


“The measures within the Bill will not significantly impact the scale and concentration of ownership and only partially incentivise better land management.

“Consideration of the public interest in the ownership of land – a key issue in the consultation – is conspicuous in its absence.

“This bill is not just about the governance of large landholdings, it is about our lives and livelihoods, communities, and futures, and marks how we choose to live in the world for generations to come.

“The successful delivery of policy commitments to the wellbeing economy, community wealth building and an equitable and just response to the climate crisis all hinge on the implementation of meaningful land reform.

“We would welcome an opportunity to further discuss our proposals for how the Bill can be significantly strengthened to deliver an effective programme of land reform and to achieve the Scottish Government’s wider policy objectives.”

Land reform legislation aiming to change how land is owned and managed in rural and island communities was introduced in the Scottish Parliament back in March.

The proposed bill includes measures that will apply to large landholdings of more than 3000 hectares and prohibits certain sales until government ministers can consider the impact on local communities.

READ MORE: Land ownership in Scotland more concentrated despite reforms, according to new data

It also proposed a requirement that owners break up the sale into smaller parts to help communities thrive.

The legislation aimed to help empower communities with more opportunities to own land by introducing advance notice of certain sales from large landholdings.

However, there have been calls for more urgency and ambition regarding the Land Reform Bill from campaigners.

The letter by the coalition of organisations and individuals hopes their considerations are considered by the Scottish Government.

In response to the letter Gougeon said: “The way Scotland’s land and natural capital is owned, managed, and used are inextricably linked and it is vital that when we consider our land, we think not just about how it is managed and used, but about who benefits from it. That is why we have an ongoing and unwavering commitment to land reform.

“I believe that we have introduced an ambitious Bill to allow the benefits and opportunities of Scotland’s land to be more widely shared. It will empower communities with more opportunities to own land and require those who own large amounts of land to show how they use their land, how that use contributes to key public policy priorities and to engage with local communities about how they use the land.

“I welcome this letter and will continue to consider further views and evidence as the Bill proceeds through Parliament.”